Letters to the Editor (May)

Close(d) Communion

An April Reporter story stated that the Southern Illinois District convention passed a resolution “asking the district president or his representative to visit Southern Illinois congregations to work toward uniformity in line with ‘our Synod’s doctrine of closed Communion.’ “

I was dismayed, because I have been taught that our policy was known as close Communion (not closed) to indicate a spirit of togetherness rather than slamming the door on people.

While it is true that one of the purposes of close Communion is to prevent people from receiving the Sacrament to their judgment (1 Cor. 11:23-29), I still believe the positive terminology and approach are important.

Dr. Oscar A. Gerken
Eustis, Fla.

Children and liturgy

I write to give pause to those who rejoiced at the negative tone of Rev. Theodore Allwardt’s assertion in the April Reporter (“Letters to the Editor”).

“One reason for fewer children in church,” he wrote, “is the extreme liturgicalism that some pastors force on their congregations and which neither children nor many of their parents find meaningful or helpful.”

I recommend The Fire and the Staff, by Klemit I. Preus (CPH).  Preus repeatedly shows how a church’s practice inevitably affects and changes that church’s theology, and vice versa.

The Evangelicals’ worship practice is based on the false theology of glory, which centers in the Law with its emphasis on what man does for God.  It is all so flattering.  But to make what I do the center of worship is also unbiblical and robs Christ of His glory.

The Gospel’s theology of the cross — not the Law — is the central doctrine of the Bible.  Our liturgical theology-of-the-cross worship centers on what God does for us through the means of grace in the absolution, the Scripture readings, the sermon, the sacraments, and the benediction.

Passively receiving the grace of God may not be flattering, but it is the ultimate in meaningfulness and helpfulness.

Rev. Joe Ed Pederson
El Paso, Texas

When children are taught the beauty, strength, and doctrinal meaning of the historic liturgy, they can and do learn that it is both meaningful and helpful.

This was evidenced when the children at our 2005 VBS sang “Matins” each morning and learned several of Martin Luther’s hymns.  Their response was a joy to see.  Sadly, though, a few visitors and some parents thought it was a waste of time.

Teach them, and they will come and grow in faith.

Greta Martin
Bristol, Wis.

We have been counseled to maintain irenic dialog in addressing differences within our Synod.  This includes avoiding inflammatory terminology and unsubstantiated charges that only serve to polarize. Pastor Allwardt’s letter in the April Reporter misses the mark on these counts.

He writes of “extreme liturgicalism.”  Because he does not define what exactly he means by this, he has left the door open for misinterpretation, and thus for polarization.

A reader might assume that by use of that phrase, Pastor Allwardt thinks that the divine liturgy which has sustained the church for 2,000 years is “neither meaningful nor helpful” for children and parents.  But that could hardly be, considering that the divine liturgy is composed entirely from the Word of God. 

It seems odd that any Christian, but especially a pastor, would consider the Word of God to be neither meaningful nor helpful.

Unfortunately, we cannot determine the validity of Pastor Allwardt’s statement because he did not define his terminology.

This mitigates against meaningful dialogue.

Rev. Brian Feicho
Granite City, Ill.

Long-distance consecration

Praise be to God!  With its opinion that using video to consecrate Communion elements for home groups cannot be condoned or encouraged, there is something on which the Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations can be in unanimous agreement.  Perhaps this signals a turning away from practicality as the benchmark for what we do.

I attended a district convention in 1985 where the elements for the Communion service were all consecrated at the front altar before being carried to various stations.

In 2003, at the same district’s convention Communion service, the elements were at the various stations prior to the consecration, when the celebrant stood before elements on the front altar and said the Words of Institution.  No time was wasted carrying them throughout the large auditorium.

But if a long-distance consecration is possible, then there really is no need for a pastor to consecrate elements brought out from the sacristy when more are needed.  The initial consecration should be good enough for the elements just a few feet away from the altar.  For that matter, why couldn’t it reach the neighborhood grocery store or surrounding houses?

I am reducing this to the absurd to illustrate that if we take liberties with the consecration, we run the risk of introducing a very Lutheran question — what does this mean? — in a very un-Lutheran way.

Rev. Paul R. Harris
Austin, Texas

Please send letters via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295.  Please include your name, postal address, and phone number.  Letters may be edited for length and clarity. – Ed.

Posted April 28, 2006 

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