Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The "Worship Wars" are Over?

According to Jesus First author David S. Luecke, the "worship wars" have now come to an end. Just like that. Really?

In his November article he claims that they came to an end in the "
eight theses on worship unanimously approved by the Council of Presidents in their September meeting." (The COP's "Theses on Worship" can be found here.) With the stroke of a pen all concerns regarding the fidelity and faithfulness of worship practices synod-wide came to a happy end. Well, maybe that's overstating the issue....

Still, to make a broad-brushed statement that the so-called "worship wars" of the Missouri Synod "are over" based simply on a series of theses by the Council of Presidents
is to overstate an issue itself. What Rev. Luecke fails to appreciate is that the situation that gives rise to conflicts over worship, both in the Synod-at-large, and in the parish, is not about appreciating our freedom to use different forms and rites. What is not at issue is not that you modify Matins for your local parish or that you print out the Divine Service and make substitutions for certain liturgical portions. What is at issue is that too many churches abandon the liturgy altogether and conduct worship no different than what we might find at the local Baptist congregation or Pentecostal assembly.

That these situations persist in a church body professing itself to be Lutheran is not only unacceptable, but in need of protest as long and as often as is required before someone will finally listen. While Luecke seems so intent on protecting the parish's freedom to choose its own forms and rites, he misses the point that in the process the infrastructure of the liturgy itself is disappearing.
As he notes, one of the theses cautions that “great care is necessary in choosing forms, rites, and ceremonies because they either support or hinder true worship. There are no ‘neutral’ forms.” (Thesis V) This is the heart of the issue. And as long as there are those in a church body such as the LCMS that insist that worship is so 'neutral' as to jettison the liturgy itself, there will be some contentious 'warfare' in our discussions and meetings as we contend for what is so utterly important. This, as the COP has indicated, is not a debatable issue. It is an issue of faith. And that is worth fighting for.

So, with all due respect, the "worship wars" are not "over." Those contending for fidelity to the hymnal and our traditional forms (with freedom to adapt as necessary) as a sign of unity within a denomination may be too often shut out of the discussions and decision making, but we dare not confuse this silence as a laying down of arms. We are quietly holding the lines in our own parishes, attempting to retain the tradition for another generation.


Rev. David M. Juhl said...

I spoke to my District President recently. He stated that the theses are meant for discussion, not as the final word on worship among us.

The "war" is not over. The negotiations for "peace" continue.

Pr. Dennis Bestul said...

And on what planet does Luecke live?