Monday, September 30, 2013

Divine Service Explanation #3 - Liturgical Vestments

Liturgical Vestments
The chief purpose of the special vestments worn by the pastor is to exalt, not the man, but the office of the holy ministry given to the Church by Christ.  In fact, the vestments are intended to hide the man wearing them so that the focus is on his office, through which the Holy Spirit works to build up the people of Christ.  Vestments, in and of themselves, are adiaphora—things neither commanded nor forbidden by God.  As Lutherans, we use them gladly, both as a means to honor the God-given ministry of the Word, and as a confession of our place in the Church catholic.  As we confess in the Book of Concord:
 “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” (Ap. XIII:13).
“At the outset we must again make the preliminary statement that we do not abolish the Mass, but religiously maintain and defend it. For among us masses are celebrated every Lord’s Day and on the other festivals, in which the Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things” (AC:XXIV:1).
Here is a brief list of the most common vestments still used by Lutherans:
Basic pastoral vestments:
Cassock   A long, close-fitting black robe that used to be the everyday wear of the clergy. It has been largely replaced by the clergy shirt and collar, but may still be worn by clergy as they perform any ministerial duties.
Surplice   A white tunic worn over the cassock in the Divine Service or Daily Offices.  It is worn by a pastor who is not the celebrant at the Sacrament.  It may also be worn by choir members or altar servers.
Alb    A long, close-fitting white robe worn by ministers at the Divine Service.  It symbolizes the baptismal garment and the righteousness of Christ.
Stole    A long, narrow strip of cloth draped around the neck, symbolizing ordination.  It is worn only by clergy. Its color changes with the liturgical season.
Cincture    A rope that is tied around the waist, serving as a belt to hold the alb and stole in place underneath the chasuble.
Chasuble    A poncho-like garment worn over the alb and stole, worn only by clergy, used exclusively by the celebrant at the Eucharist. Its color changes with the liturgical season.
Additional vestments for a bishop:
Cope    A long, circular cape.
Mitre    A pointed, ceremonial hat used by bishops to signify their office.
Crozier  A long staff with a crook at the top, resembling a shepherd’s staff.  

Divine Service Explanation #1 - The Purpose of the Divine Service
Divine Service Explanation #2 - The Church Year and Lectionary

Monday, September 23, 2013

Divine Service Explanation #2 - The Church Year and Lectionary

For over a thousand years, the Christian Church has ordered her prayer life after the life of Christ by means of a yearly review of His life and teachings in her Divine Service.  Readings (“lections”) from the Holy Gospels and from the Epistles (the New Testament “letters” written by the Apostles) have been assigned to each Sunday and other festival days of the “church year.”  The year is divided in two (a “festival half” and a “non-festival half”), and further divided into “seasons,” each season having a certain number of Sundays, each with its own special emphasis.  Different colors help us to remember the emphasis of each season. The seasons are:
Advent:     We prepare for Christ’s coming (His first coming in the past and His second coming in the future) in repentance and quiet meditation. (The “festival half” of the Church Year begins.) (Color: Violet for repentance or Blue for hope) 
Christmas:  We celebrate the birth of Christ and the mystery of His incarnation. (Color: White for purity and divinity) 
Epiphany:   We marvel at how Christ was manifested as the Savior of all nations. (Color: Green for life or White for purity and divinity) 
Pre-Lent:   We begin slowing down in preparation for Lent, fortifying ourselves in the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, Word alone, and faith alone (“Gesima” season). (Color: Green for life or Violet for repentance) 
Lent:          We observe the 40-day fast (either bodily and spiritually, or a spiritual fast only) in repentance as we watch our Savior go to battle for us against sin, death and the devil. (Color: Violet for repentance) 
Holy Week: We meditate on the Passion (“suffering”) and death of our Lord as He earned for us the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. (Color: Violet for repentance) 
Easter:     We rejoice in the resurrection of Christ and in its significance for us who believe in Him. (Color: White for purity and divinity) 
Pentecost:  We give thanks for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. (The “festival half” of the Church Year ends.) (Color: Red for fire and blood) 
Trinity:     We grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord, who sustains His Church on earth through Word and Sacrament until He returns in glory to judge the living and the dead. (The entire Trinity season makes up the “non-festival half” of the Church Year.) (Color: Green for life)  

Divine Service Explanation #1 - The Purpose of the Divine Service

Monday, September 16, 2013

Divine Service Explanation #1 - The Purpose of the Divine Service

Part of the Catechism instruction in my parish includes a short explanation each week of the Divine Service. The same explanation is included in our service folder the following Sunday.  These are my own explanations and can certainly be improved upon. I have decided to begin posting them here, with a link to an MS Word file in case anyone wishes to use or adapt them.

Divine Service Explanation #1

The Purpose of the Divine Service

Lutherans often use the term “Divine Service” (i.e., “the service of God”) for our weekly gathering around Word and Sacrament, both because God serves us there through the office of the Holy Ministry, and because we serve God there by joining together with fellow believers to give thanks to God and to serve one another. The emphasis in the Lutheran Divine Service is always on God’s service to us.

Other historical terms for the Divine Service: “The Mass,” “The Eucharist”

The purpose of the Divine Service is for believers in Christ to gather, at Christ’s command, around the ministry of His Word and Sacrament, in order to:
  1. Hear the preaching of the Word of Christ from the called and ordained servant of Christ (Luke 10:16; John 10:16; John 8:31-32; Acts 2:42; 2 Cor. 5:20).
  2. Receive admonition, correction and instruction from God’s Word, through God’s minister (Luke 12:42-44; 2 Tim. 4:2).
  3. Unite with fellow believers in the communion of the body and blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16-17; 1 Cor. 11:24-25).
  4. Seek and receive forgiveness from God through His servant (Jn. 20:23; Acts 2:38,42; Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Cor. 4:1).
  5. Have our faith strengthened (Rom. 10:17).
  6. Be built up and continually renewed in love as the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:12-32; 1 Cor. 14:3).
  7. Pray to God for mercy, for ourselves and others (Acts 2:42; Matt. 6:5-13; Matt. 9:27; 1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  8. Give thanks to God in the great assembly (Ps. 35:18; Col. 3:17).
  9. Confess the Christian faith, for our own benefit and for the benefit of outsiders (Acts 2:46-47; Rom. 10:8-10; Rom. 15:7-13; 1 Cor. 11:26).
  10. Encourage and admonish one another to remain faithful and to bear the cross patiently (Gal. 6:2; Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:24-25).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Whither Blog Fellowship?

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

Whither Blog Fellowship?

I am indeed disappointed that so few have commented on the subject of "blog fellowship," especially from among those who might believe that there is such a kind of church fellowship. Again, I understand the reluctance of those people to have any visible contact with Intrepid Lutherans. But, come on, people, I know you read this blog. I often check the "Feedjit" link and see that computers from many heavily WELS areas check out IL on almost a daily basis. Really, now, no one is going to think you are a "supporter" of IL if you simply make a comment defending the idea of blog fellowship. Here's your chance to convince me that you are right and I am wrong. If I didn't admit such a possibility, I wouldn't have posted the original article in the first place. So, some on, let's see some comments! 

We did receive one comment which endeavored to support the idea of blog fellowship. Unfortunately, the comment was not signed, so we did not post it. However, I will quote one sentence from this comment. The person wrote,

"Co-editorship of a blog is the Internet-era equivalent of co-management of a traditional publishing house. Awarding posting rights to a person is the equivalent of permitting that person to publish under your imprint."

This individual is equating a blog with a religious magazine and/or church publishing house. I believe another person made such a comparison as well, and wondered if someone outside WELS/ELS would be asked or allowed to write for the Forward in Christ, or an editor of NPH brought in from outside our synodical fellowship. The comparison would be that IL is analogous to an official synodical periodical or the official publishing house of a particular synod.

The way I see it, there is a huge difference between a blog like IL and FiC and NPH. While not "apples and oranges," it is at the very least grapefruit and lemons!

But, if this comparison is indeed valid, then the question becomes, how is "publishing under [an] imprint" the same as Church Fellowship? And if so, why?

Let's look at an example of a religious magazine that has editors from various Lutheran synods, all working together to put out a periodical, the content of which is very doctrinal.

Below are the current Editors of LOGIA magazine, with which many of our readers are no doubt quite familiar:


Michael J. Albrecht (Independent) [However, note: Saint James continues to support Saint Croix Lutheran High School (WELS)]
Senior Editor
Pastor, St. James Lutheran Church
West St. Paul, MN

Carl D. Roth (LCMS)
Coordinating Editor
Pastor, Grace Lutheran Church
Elgin, TX

John T. Pless (LCMS)
Book Review Editor Professor
Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

Roy Askins (LCMS)
Web and Blog Editor
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Livingston, TX

John W. Sias (LCMS)
Associate Book Review Editor
Pastor, Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church Colstrip, MT

Brent Kuhlman (LCMS)
Logia Forum Coeditor
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Murdock, NE

Richard A. Lammert (LCMS)
Copy Editor
Concordia Theological Seminary
Fort Wayne, IN

James M. Braun (WELS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
Yelm, WA

Charles Cortright (WELS)
Editorial Associate
Associate Professor, Wisconsin Lutheran College
Milwaukee, WI

Paul Lehninger (WELS)
Editorial Associate
Professor, Wisconsin Lutheran College
Milwaukee, WI

Dennis Marzolf (ELS)
Editorial Associate
Professor, Bethany Lutheran College
Mankato, MN

Aaron Moldenhauer (LCMS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church
Beecher, IL

Martin R. Noland (LCMS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Evansville, IN

Thomas L. Rank (ELS)
Editorial Associate
Pastor, Scarville and Center Lutheran Churches
Scarville, IA

Erling Teigen (ELS)
Editorial Advisor
Professor, Bethany Lutheran College
Mankato, MN

[from the masthead page,]

So, if a blog is like a magazine, and a religious-themed blog like a religious-themed magazine, and if also these are a part of the concept of church fellowship, then also it would be held as an unacceptable type of fellowship to have men of different synods, therefore different confessions, albeit confessional Lutherans, working together on such a magazine. Or am I missing something here?

Ah, but I know what some may be thinking - consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds! Perhaps LOGIA has been made an exception due to its very deep intellectual content, and we will be told that one exception does not a rule make, or break. If that is indeed the case, then all fine and well, and this is all good for LOGIA. I suppose IL would have to then make our own argument that we deserve to be an exception also. Then again, to whom would we put forth such as case - those who believe in blog fellowship, of course, and for that we'd need to know who y'all are! On the other hand, it may be that many of those who believe in blog fellowship did not know about the various synod affiliations of the LOGIA editors, or even know about LOGIA at all. If I have brought light, and perhaps trouble, to this fine magazine, that was not my intention. It is just that I happened to know some of the editors, and it seemed like an analogous situation to IL, if not rather on a lower and smaller scale.

Thus, once again, I implore any and all who truly believe in a concept of "blog fellowship" being part of the doctrine of church fellowship to write in and make your argument. I really do want to hear your points of view.

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Home in the ELDoNA

My Facebook friends saw this announcement on my timeline on Sunday.  Now I'm sharing it with all our Intrepid readers, so that you can rejoice together with me, my family, and my congregation.  I'm very happy to have completed the colloquy process and to be accepted as a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA). It is my privilege to join the ranks of these faithful men and to recognize and be recognized in this fellowship of Christian pastors, together with the saints whom they serve. I have been searching for awhile for the Lutherans who honestly confess the faith of the Book of Concord of 1580 without compromise and without asterisks. By the grace of God, I have found them.  As I've said to Bishop Heiser and others, coming into the diocese is like coming home, and my brethren there have graciously welcomed me with open arms.

At our first Intrepid Lutherans conference, back in June, 2012, I presented a paper entitled, "Do we want to be Dresden Lutherans?"  I concluded that paper with these words:

No one has forced me to sign the Book of Concord. I have signed it because it is my confession.   I have signed it because I share the beliefs of the Dresden Lutherans, their exegesis, their interpretation, their sensibilities, their convictions, their love for sinners, their love for the truth, and their love for the Lord Jesus.  Their words are my words from start to finish, including these:

By God’s grace, with intrepid hearts, we are willing to appear before the judgment seat of Christ with this Confession and give an account of it. We will not speak or write anything contrary to this Confession, either publicly or privately. By the strength of God’s grace we intend to abide by it.

I would like to know who is and who isn’t committed to walking in the same direction with me, and with whom I should walk, arm in arm with the Dresden Lutherans, not by force or for convenience’ sake, but by conviction and for the sake of the truth. I want it to be the WELS with whom I walk along that road.  Do we want to be Dresden Lutherans?  As for me, I am WELS for now; Dresden Lutheran forever. So help me God.

At the time, I still had some hope that I might be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with my brothers in the WELS as a Dresden Lutheran, that is, a confessor of the Book of Concord.  I had to give them a chance to become the "confessional Lutherans" they so stubbornly claim to be.  But they were not willing.  So be it.  The Lord has been merciful and has provided a better confession of faith, and a ministerium in which I can honestly stand shoulder to shoulder with every other pastor, knowing that our confession is truly united.

It is not my intent to turn Intrepid Lutherans into a recruitment zone for the ELDoNA.  Intrepid Lutherans, as a blog, is not a church or an ecclesiastical fellowship, and is certainly not governed by any church body.  That said, I do want our readers to know where I, for my part, am coming from.  I will make no apologies for speaking highly and often of this orthodox fellowship, and I will not pretend that I do not earnestly hope and pray that others will explore the confession of the diocese and come to the same conclusion I have.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Church Growth Project

Below is a project proposal submitted by Intrepid readers Mr. Vernon Knepprath and Mr. Bryan Lidtke. Their concerns about the pervasive Church Growth theology in the WELS (among other doctrinal concerns, I would add) deserve careful investigation. A link to the original PDF document is available by clicking on the title below. Comments and discussion are welcome.

‘Church Growth’ Inroads in the WELS as Observed on WELS Local
Church Website Home Pages

If one is unfamiliar with the term ‘Church Growth’ (hereafter referred to as CG), it would be easy to assume that anything named CG must be a good thing, just as “church” plus “growth” would be a good thing. After all, God has commissioned us to go into “all the world” to teach and preach His saving Truth. Of course God wants more people to hear and learn the Gospel. Of course God wants more people in church worshipping Him on Sunday mornings.

But the term CG is commonly associated with a movement that is not primarily about “growing in the knowledge and truth of God’s Word.” It is primarily concerned with putting more people in the pews. And to do that, it utilizes things other than the Means of Grace – God’s Word and Sacraments. The CG movement is a danger because it leads to situations where the Means of Grace, the only means of creating and sustaining faith, are diminished to the point where there is no longer a focus on “growing in the knowledge and truth of God’s Word.”

That the CG movement has made inroads in the WELS there can be no denying. Sadly, the emphasis on buildings and programs and methodologies has become so prevalent, that it is increasingly difficult to recognize the Scriptural purpose of the church in many congregations in the WELS. This can be observed by simply looking at the home page of some WELS church websites. The prominence of CG methodology on these websites can be a good indicator of CG practices within the local church itself.

The home page of any church website gives a unique view into the purpose and mission of a church. The website home page does, and must, speak for itself. It is a unique opportunity to provide a message for visitors to the website who might never consider walking into the physical church building or calling on the telephone to inquire about services. What message will the website visitor find on a church’s home page?

With that question before us, a project is being undertaken, and is described in this proposal, to characterize websites of WELS churches to assess the message found on the website home page. The analysis is limited to only the home page of WELS church websites, and the intention is to have the analysis be simple and straightforward and factual.

The home page of a WELS church website will be assessed by looking for clear evidence of the Gospel, the Means of Grace, and confessional Lutheran standards. Specifically, the analysis will look for clear evidence of 1) the Gospel message, 2) God’s Word, 3) the Sacraments, 4) the name “Lutheran”, 5) the Lutheran Confessions and 6) the liturgical service. Further explanation of these six criteria is given in the following paragraphs:
  1. The Gospel message – we are all sinners in need of a savior, and Jesus Christ is that Savior. The Scriptural purpose of a Christian church is clear, to spread the Gospel. A church which takes that purpose seriously will have the Gospel message, in some form or fashion, on the home page of their website. CG methodology may steer clear of a specific Gospel message out of fear that acknowledging all people as sinners in need of a Savior would be offensive to some.
  2. God’s Word – the Means of Grace. God works through the Means of Grace, and that alone. In many cases a church has only one chance to proclaim God’s Word to a website visitor. That one chance is the home page. A website visitor may never go further than the home page, therefore one cannot take for granted the possibility that a website visitor will dig deeper into the web site to find God’s Word. CG methodology may steer clear of specific references to God’s Word because website visitors might not consider it “real” or “relevant” to today’s world.
  3. The Sacraments – the Means of Grace. Very few Christian churches confess and teach that the Sacraments create and strengthen faith, treating them instead as mere symbolic acts. CG methodology may steer clear of the Bible’s clear teachings about Baptism and the Lord’s Supper because they obviously conflict with the opinions of many, including many Christian churches.
  4. The Lutheran name – Those who believed and confessed as Luther did were called "Lutherans" by their enemies. Christians who believe, confess, and teach what Luther taught rightly call themselves Lutheran today (paraphrase from CG methodology would likely not want to draw attention to the “Lutheran” in their name, if it exists, out of fear of seeming exclusive or “sect-like.”
  5. The Lutheran Confessions – Lutherans believe that Bible truths were correctly understood and shared in writings that early Lutherans provided in the Book of Concord (finished in 1580). These are known as the Lutheran Confessions. Reading these confessional statements and examining them in the light of the Bible (always the primary and central authority) is to be encouraged (paraphrase from CG methodology would likely avoid mention of the Lutheran Confessions out of fear that they would be considered even less “real” and “relevant” than the Bible.
  6. The liturgical service – The liturgy provides the fullness and richness of God’s Word, and only God’s Word. Visitors to a liturgical church can be assured that worship services will be Scripturally sound. CG methodology would likely avoid mention of the Liturgy in an effort to appear “modern” and “in.”
For this project, each of these criteria are scored ‘green’ (strong evidence), ‘yellow’ (inconclusive evidence) or ‘red’ (no evidence or opposing CG evidence) for each church website. In some cases, comments are provided (red triangle in upper right hand corner of the cell) to explain the scoring. But where the scoring is thought to be self-evident, comments are not provided.

The following is a sample of six WELS congregations from the NW Wisconsin district (names excluded here), providing an example of the scoring matrix for the six criteria indicated above.

Along with the spread sheet scoring matrix, a screen print or “snip it” of the church website home page is captured on a PowerPoint slide. Some website home pages change frequently, while some change rarely or never. It is important that the website home page on which the scoring is based is captured (with the date) for record keeping. An example can be seen below:

The work completed on this project to date has been done by two individuals, taking into consideration suggestions and direction from others. This proposal serves as an announcement of this project and a call for assistance. Additional input is welcome. Those who wish to assist are asked to contact me at to coordinate and align efforts.

The project scope will include websites of a significant number of WELS congregations in each district. Analysis will be performed in a manner to minimize individual bias by having multiple inputs for each congregational website. Analysis will compare results and look for trends within each district, and compare results from district to district. With more resources, the project scope can be expanded to include more congregations in the analysis and more inputs can be provided per church website. The project could be carried out in multiple phases, with each phase including more districts or more congregations within each district.

Results could be reported many different ways. One decision yet to be made is whether scoring should be associated with individual church names, or whether identifying information be excluded from the report.

Excluding individual church names will limit the analysis to looking at general trends within a district and from district to district, and making a general assessment of the extent of CG influence in the WELS. This approach has a benefit of minimizing the potential for a defensive reaction by individual congregations that might not be happy with the scoring results assigned to their website home page. If defensiveness can be avoided, the likelihood of congregations considering the project results and adjusting their web site home pages to a more Scriptural and confessional Lutheran message might be enhanced.

Including church names and associating them directly with the scoring results has the benefit of highlighting the real divisions and variations in teaching and practice that already exist. But that emphasis might provoke defensiveness that could have the effect of inhibiting some congregations from moving to a more Scriptural and confessional Lutheran message on their website home page.

As previously stated, the purpose of this project is to characterize CG inroads in the WELS. There is obvious bias in that statement. Everything has bias. It is never a question of whether bias exists, but whether the bias is perceived to be favorable or unfavorable. The bias that exists in this project is toward faithfulness to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. It is a bias that I believe most faithful Christians would view as favorable. And it is a bias consistent with what the WELS and all member churches claim to be in agreement with.

While the purpose of this project is to characterize CG inroads in the WELS, there is another more positive perspective to this work. That perspective is to consider what might be good and reliable guidelines for a confessional Lutheran website home page.

Shouldn’t a home page, first and foremost, display the Gospel message? Shouldn’t one find, first and foremost, the Means of Grace, because this is what God works through to bring the lost to faith. Shouldn’t one find a confessional statement or reference? Or is our faith in God’s promises so compromised that one must promote contemporary worship on a website home page as a clever technique to draw people in. Must we on a Christian church home page advertise a preschool/daycare facility, or announce a fund raising event, or promote a life coaching seminar in place of a Gospel message, a verse from God’s Word or a confession of faith?

What is most important to a congregation should and can be found on the website home page. What is the message a church is trying to convey on its website home page? Is CG most important, or is it sharing the Gospel message to a dying world?

Blog Fellowship - Let's Blog About It!

 Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

 Blog Fellowship - Let's Blog About It!


{From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia}

A blog (a contraction of the words web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts") typically displayed in reverse chronological order (the most recent post appears first). Until 2009 blogs were usually the work of a single individual, occasionally of a small group, and often covered a single subject. More recently "multi-author blogs" (MABs) have developed, with posts written by large numbers of authors and professionally edited. MABs from newspapers, other media outlets, universities, think tanks, interest groups and similar institutions account for an increasing quantity of blog traffic. The rise of Twitter and other "microblogging" systems helps integrate MABs and single-author blogs into societal newstreams. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.

 The emergence and growth of blogs in the late 1990s coincided with the advent of web publishing tools that facilitated the posting of content by non-technical users. (Previously, a knowledge of such technologies as HTML and FTP had been required to publish content on the Web.)

A majority are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via GUI widgets on the blogs, and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites. In that sense, blogging can be seen as a form of social networking. Indeed, bloggers do not only produce content to post on their blogs, but also build social relations with their readers and other bloggers. There are high-readership blogs which do not allow comments, such as Daring Fireball.

Many blogs provide commentary on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries; others function more as online brand advertising of a particular individual or company. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important contribution to the popularity of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (art blogs), photographs (photoblogs), videos (video blogs or "vlogs"), music (MP3 blogs), and audio (podcasts). Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts. In education, blogs can be used as instructional resources. These blogs are referred to as edublogs.

On 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence. On 13 October 2012, there were around 77 million Tumblr and 56.6 million WordPress blogs in existence worldwide. According to critics and other bloggers, Blogger is the most popular blogging service used today.

Some of our brother Pastors and lay people have serious concerns about the propriety of this blog, that is, whether or not the fact that both WELS and non-WELS Pastors work together as editors constitutes a kind of fellowship in the Biblical and doctrinal sense, and therefore might be seen as unionistic and thus improper. I hope I have characterized the concern property. If not, I'm sure there will be someone willing to correct me.

To be fully honest with you, I must admit that when I first heard this concern I thought it was rather silly and nonsensical, and thus I pretty much ignored these ideas. However, they have been repeated now for over three years, and by some of our synod leaders. Which leaders is not important - you'll just have to take my word for it. But it now occurs to me that perhaps it is time for a more in-depth discussion of this concern. Simply put, is there such a thing as "blog fellowship," akin to Church Fellowship or Altar and Pulpit Fellowship; to wit, an amendment to the Galesburg Rule would be needed: "WELS blogs for WELS Pastors only!" (ditto for ELS, LCMS, CLC, ELDoNA, ACLC, etc....)   

For my part, very obviously, I do not believe there is such a thing as blog fellowship, nor do I believe that anyone should have any perception of such fellowship simply because I, a WELS Pastor, am an associate editor/moderator along with a non-WELS Pastor. 

[By-the-way, and as an aside, perceptions are queer birds, and probably fodder for a discussion of their own. When does a perception become slander? When does a perception become reality? Is perception enough to initiate church discipline? If so, why, and when and how much perception is necessary, and on who's part? Are those who hold a perception - however erroneous - just as guilty as those who may perpetuate said perception, if not more so? Is perception of a improper fellowship putting the best construction on a brother's actions and motives? As I said, another discussion for another time, but perhaps a very important one.]

I maintain that among the millions of blogs on the internet, that there is more than one where WELS and non-WELS (other that ELS) Pastors work together on various duties related to these blogs. In addition, I know of no concerns being raised about such blogs, either by rank-in-file Pastors in the WELS or WELS leaders, at least not to the extent as such complaints have been raised to me about IL. But, on both counts I invite correction.  

Now, I know there are many of my brother Pastors out there who read this blog but do not want to comment on it publicly out of concern they may be seen as supporters of IL, or, if nothing else, at the very least of giving a kind of tacit support and approval for this blog. Let's all agree that anyone who writes in with a comment on this topic shall be totally free from such aspersions, unless they themselves actually say something positive about IL in their comment; and even then it will not be held against them. There, I think that's fair.

So, with the definition above in mind; just what is a blog, theologically speaking? Is it a "ministry?" Is it "church?" Is it a kind of fellowship? If so, what kind, and why? If not, why not? May Pastors - or lay people, for that matter - who are not in doctrinal fellowship, work together on a blog that deals with religious and spiritual questions, and provides a forum for doctrinal discussions? Why or why not? Are perceptions of fellowship enough to prohibit such working together? In addition, is a blog the same as a theological periodical, or is it different? If it is the same, why? If not, why not? Should the same standards be applied to both, or not; why or why not?

Come on, let's talk about this, shall we? It is clearly on the minds of many. Let's get it out in the open and discuss it like humble Christians striving for peaceful, thoughtful, and constructive dialog!

I will be very disappointed if we don't get a lot of comments - especially from those who criticize me for my part in IL. I really do want to hear from you, and are very interested in what you have to say. All I ask is that you say it to me here on IL so we can discuss it openly in spirit of brotherly debate. Thank you!

Deo Vindice!

Pastor Spencer

Monday, September 2, 2013

Don’ts & Dos

Don’ts & Dos for the Orthodox Lutheran Pastor

Thoughts from Thunder Mountain
["Huachuca" - A Chiricahua Apache word meaning "thunder."]

 > Don’t assume any other Pastor is orthodox just because you roomed with him in prep or college, or he’s married to your sister, or related in any way.

    Do always “test the spirits” with regard to all other Pastors, near and far.

> Don’t expect your members to be 100% orthodox Lutherans.

    Do expect and demand that your fellow ministers be 100% orthodox Lutherans.

> Don’t judge your ministry by numbers – any numbers.

    Do evaluate your ministry according to your faithfulness to the Lutheran Confessions and historic Christianity.

>Don’t get into a spitting-match with a skunk – you’ll lose every time.

    Do stand up and speak out for the truth in every forum.

> Don’t try to save the church – leave that to God.

    Do inform your congregation, and your fellow Pastors, as to the dangers and problems you see.

> Don’t ever resign without a VERY good reason. 

    Do take your congregation with you if you leave your church body, otherwise they may be left to “wolves.”

> Don’t expect your church body to always remain orthodox.

    Do understand that ALL church bodies become heterodox eventually, and always be prepared to act accordingly, and as your conscience directs.

> Don’t ever stop studying, learning, and growing in your faith and knowledge of the Bible and Book of Concord. 

    Do keep up with what's going on among other Lutherans and other Christians.

> Don’t use your congregation as guinea pigs for your liturgical innovations.

    Do educate your congregation about historic liturgical practices before you institute them - but DO institute them, don't just talk about it.

> Don’t let your congregational or personal ministry records become out-of-date.

    Do always be prepared to leave your congregation at any time with all things in good order.


Pastor Spencer

[from vacation on the beach near San Diego]

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