Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Ecumania

Ecumania: ecu(menical) + mania [excessive enthusiasm; insanity] - Excessive enthusiasm in seeing outward signs of unity where true unity does not exist; theological insanity.

I thought that the recent papers on DayStar (DS) deserved the invention of a new word. It seems that the folks on DS have decided that the LCMS ought to embrace a far broader approach to ecumenical relations. In one of my previous posts (Dec. 8, "New Agenda for the Synod: LWF") I alerted readers to the first of their articles in what has turned out to be a electronic journal devoted to ecumenicalism. I was unable to open the second article on "Seven Roads and Seven Realities under an Ecumenical Rainbow," but did find it here in a pdf file in a different online journal.

The first article, "The Church Catholic in Mission" by retired Naval Chaplain Al Kirk, betrays a minimalistic approach to ministry and mission, governed by pragmatism, and certainly not the catholic scope of the church's theology. Basically differences between various denominations are chalked up to personal differences in the way people behave, not in what they believe. His observations on this point concerning an encounter with some Pentecostal women is naive at best. He uses his reasoning that all differences between these various faiths are simply stylistic to justify any manner of change in our own church body, including the tired arguments that the differences in worship is simply a matter of taste.

There is one small paragraph that also drags out the DS/ Voice-Vision agenda for women pastors:

"The primacy of the mission and my experience of the contributions of women throughout the history of the church has caused me to question whether or not we in the Missouri Synod have considered all of the passages of Scripture that address the role played by gender in the overall plan of God’s salvation, or whether we have been guided by a sense of tradition."

Notice that he bases his need to question the synod's teaching on the "primacy of mission" and "my experience." First he uses the mission of the church (redefined) to trump its teaching (the practice vs. doctrine argument), and then he under girds the whole thing based on "experience." On this we are to reexamine how we interpret the Bible! I thought that Scripture interpreted scripture? His model works if we are Methodist, but we are Lutheran.

And what "experience" does he use to question whether women should be allowed to fill all positions in the church's ministry? Note this paragraph that precedes the one one above:

"Certainly on the level of the local parish I discovered that there were extremely talented women who contributed a great deal to the daily life of the church. The highly experienced church secretary simply took care of a number of things like the weekly service bulletin and notes, the monthly newsletter, as well as managing the office and fielding inquiries, which freed me to concentrate on my own primary tasks. The organist, also a woman, built the service and music around the worship themes I selected. Weekly she sat me down to ensure that we were prepared for the up-coming Sunday, as well as insisting that I plan for three months out so that service and choir music could be selected. Women, as well as men, served as lectors and on one occasion delivered the bulk of the sermon. I invited a young doctor of osteopathy who from the time she was in kindergarten until she was a junior in high school had served with her parents on the mission field of central Africa to share her experiences with the congregation during the sermon. She was my show and tell, and the congregation had no problem with her participation. Teenagers, both male and female, participated periodically in the worship service, including leading the prayers or providing the bids for a bidding prayer. I was surprised to learn from a fellow pastor that those of the female persuasion were not to be permitted within the altar rail. Are they not children of God also?"

I'm not even sure where to begin. Is this man even Lutheran at all?

Well, let's take a moment to consider the second article. The material was an outgrowth of his Master of Ecumenical Studies at Bossey. Suffice it to say that the second part of the title is the point to which he is heading: "Ecumenical Rainbow." He uses a color scheme to describe the relationship between the different denominations. Differences are avoided in favor of a sense of commonality which binds the whole rainbow together. Come again? You'd better read it for yourself. See the above link. Notice at the end of the article that familiar phrase: "unity in diversity." Although this man is identified as "Lutheran," his language betrays his real theological leanings. On the other hand, he may be ELCA, which then would make more sense.

Some may think that DS is just a fringe of the LCMS and that their writings really do not represent where the synod is truly at today. However, to ignore what they are saying now is to be painfully surprised tomorrow when the same language ends up in convention resolutions to which synodical administrations will inform us we are bound. Jesus First, Day Star and Voices-Vision represent a coalition for change in Synod today, and that change, according to this online journal, is for a broad ecumenical approach to all churches. It is, as the term I coined at the beginning, "ecumania" - a excessive enthusiasm with seeing an outward unity at the expense of a doctrinally and theologically empty church. Insanity.

I hope that what I am reading does note make it far into our congregations. But if it does, may God grant us courage to call this into question before we begin a steady irreversible slide from our confessional moorings. Many church bodies in the world have long looked to the LCMS as a major confessional presence. If this ecumania takes root, they will have lost a major friend of the faith and will be alone in their confession.

2 comments:

The Heresy Hunter said...

I've heard that if you go to Concordia Seminary you find a wide variety of views on a wide variety of subjects among those going into the ministry. Shouldn't those with ecumenical views and those willing to compromise the Gospel for the sake of "unity" be weeded out right there, before they ever get to a place of leadership?

D. Engebretson said...

I believe that there is an interview process that begins already on the District level, although depending on the district that might be of questionable help.
I think that a student should have the opportunity to explore, question and wrestle with the theology in the beginning when they are still being "formed." However, by the time they go out on vicarage, and especially when they are ready for their call, a decision needs to be made, and the seminary needs to press it, which I hope they are going.
One must realize that it's possible to "cooperate and graduate" from sem just as from any other institution. It's not right and it shows a lack of integrity, but it happens.
Also, some of the people writing the stuff I am talking about are hold-overs from another era. Unfortunately there are many men who stayed after the walkout in St.Louis, even though they didn't hold to what the LCMS has historically believed. Pension, maybe? Don't know. There are those, of course, who stayed thinking they could change the direction of the synod, which, in part they have - for now. But some of these men have risen in the ranks and must be tolerated for now.
A new generation is coming up behind them. We can pray that those trained under the Preus years will eventually replace the old guard. However, politics being what they are, everything is up for grabs.
Thanks for reading and commenting!