Draft of revised Small Catechism ‘Explanation’ to be mailed

By Jeni Miller

Following the directive of the Synod’s 2013 convention, the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) is ready to publish a first draft of the revised “Explanation” to Luther’s Small Catechism as part of the project to update the 1991 edition of the Catechism Explanation.

catechism-INThis field-test version of the “Explanation” is set to be published and mailed to all LCMS congregations and rostered church workers by late July, soon after the 2016 Synod convention.

“After three years of work, we are happy that a field-test edition of an updated Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation will soon be published,” said the Rev. Larry Vogel, associate executive director of the CTCR. “It’s been almost 25 years since Synod revised its most important instructional tool.”

A few noteworthy revisions to the explanation include:

  • several hundred more biblical references and narratives than the previous volume.
  • numerous references to the Large Catechism and other writings in The Book of Concord.
  • solid application that seeks to address contemporary questions and topics.
  • frequent “apologetic” notes and comments that provide both a scriptural and reason-focused, natural law-based foundation for moral and social teachings.
  • adaptability for use as a missionary and/or instructional tool, basis for thematic Bible classes, guide for individual or family devotions, and even as a quick reference for sermon preparation.

According to the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the CTCR and chairman of the Catechism Revision Committee, “Our drafting committee worked with several priorities for the revised draft: (1) build on and be faithful to Luther’s foundational work in the Small Catechism; (2) provide strong biblical support, with key verses to be treasured and committed to memory and key biblical narratives to illustrate each catechetical theme; (3) stimulate further exploration of core Christian teaching; (4) offer a flexible tool that can be used by and for adults as well as children; (5) promote and encourage devotional use of the catechism; and (6) be responsive to suggestions made in earlier surveys of the Synod.”

Since the goal of field-testing for the revised “Explanation” is improvement, recipients will have the opportunity to share reactions, comments and suggestions via a link that will be shared in the cover letter that accompanies the mailing and an e-blast that will be published at the time of the mailing.

Reviewers will have until Oct. 31 (Reformation Day), 2016, to share their thoughts on the revised work as a whole, as well as the updates and additions to the sections on each chief part. As church workers and congregations are reviewing, testing and utilizing this revised draft, they’re encouraged to consider:

  • the relevance and clarity of questions and answers.
  • applicability and value of supporting Scripture references and narratives.
  • communicability of the language used — its simplicity and clarity.
  • adequacy regarding contemporary issues and concerns.

“The catechism is perhaps the best example of theology that is both doctrinally faithful and a superb aid in the Church’s mission,” noted Vogel. “It provides a practical tool for new believers as well as a ‘confessional framework’ for thinking as a Lutheran Christian.”

The 2013 LCMS convention adopted Resolution 3-13A “To Update Synod’s Catechetical Materials.” Only the “Explanation” was to be revised, not the actual Small Catechism itself, in order to address new questions and circumstances, taking into account responses to a series of earlier surveys that solicited input on the 1991 “Explanation” and suggestions for improvement.

As noted in Lehenbauer’s preface to the field-test draft, “After final revisions, the “Explanation” will go through doctrinal review. It is our prayer that the completed revision will then be published in the [Reformation’s] 500th anniversary year of 2017.”

Deaconess Jeni Miller (jenikaiser@aol.com) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.

Posted June 30, 2016

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18 Responses to Draft of revised Small Catechism ‘Explanation’ to be mailed

  1. Donald Collins June 30, 2016 at 9:49 pm #

    How does one get a copy of this first draft sent to them for review and comment?

    • July 1, 2016 at 10:50 am #

      Printed copies of the draft will be mailed to all rostered church workers in later July. At the same time, the draft will be posted for download on The LCMS web site by anyone.

      • Erick July 4, 2016 at 8:56 pm #

        Will this be available in NIV or in ESV? Or both?

        • July 6, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

          The Biblical text in the proposed Explanation will be from the English Standard Version, with a few exceptions (I think around three or four). The New International Version will not be used because the latest version of the NIV has been deemed unsuitable for use in our congregations because of its gender-neutral translation policy and other problem with it. The publisher of the NIV does not permit previous versions to be used.

    • Todd Klopp July 30, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

      Per Pastor McCain – “Printed copies of the draft will be mailed to all rostered church workers in later July. At the same time, the draft will be posted for download on The LCMS web site by anyone.” If I channeled some Martin Luther you might hear more than a little cynicism regarding monasteries e.g. “rostered church workers” versus the laity so could I suggest:
      1. We conduct a survey of our churches to determine what percentage of them are still actively using the small catechism in their confirmation programs
      2. We change the audience to receive the draft copies from “all rostered church workers” instead to those who are specifically and currently engaged in teaching catechism today and who are using the small catechism to do same.
      3. Since the small catechism created for the father of the household to teach with could we get perhaps the Fort Wayne Seminary to lead some online focus groups of young Dads and their children (young confirmands) using web conferencing to see how well the Fathers and confirmands receive this matter. Try to include some of our African churches.
      4. We consult with our Catholic Brethren who recently created their own small catechism by contacting the author of their 2011 work; “YOUCAT” -Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church -Author: Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn. Or the drafting team of their just released DOCAT, Jul 2016; (YOUCAT FOUNDATION GEMEINNUTZIGE GMBH) that explains catholic social teaching (WORLDVIEW) NOTE: We don’t have to agree on doctrine to benefit from their focus group research and editorial insights.
      5. There has been a large demand by our young military troops for the small catechism so I suggest we send draft copies to our Chief of Chaplains for the USA, USN, and USAF for their input. They may desire a more ruggedized version with waterproof pages, soft covers (camo) and flexible bindings so the troops can take them to the field. Our third world churches would also benefit from same ruggedized version. BTW same is needed for their bibles. Finally, this is just one more reason a mobile phone and web-enabled catechism is imperative. Our troops are using their mobile phones to conduct combat these days so lets enable them to use their mobile phones to share their faith.

  2. Todd Klopp July 1, 2016 at 6:06 am #

    Hopefully Small Catechism ‘Explanation’ will also be published in a FREE, on-line, searchable, web-enabled, and especially mobile addition so that it can be consumed globally. This is also in recognition that if its not available to people’s phones its unlikely to get used by anyone younger than 50 years old.

    FREE is important, because its not likely to be a priority purchase for our youth or for people in 3rd world countries. Please don’t let publishing profits get in the way of distributing this important resource! Besides its likely that all who contributed to its development are paid church workers, don’t make people pay twice!

    • July 1, 2016 at 7:56 am #

      Agreed. This Edition needs to be readily available and FREE for mobile devices … The Mobile Platforms of today are the Gutenberg Press of the Reformation.

  3. Ron Whitaker July 1, 2016 at 8:38 am #

    Can/will we update the word “fear”? Why should we use such an impossible word to teach basic doctone?
    It is not insignificant to non Lutherans.
    Why teach we must be afraid of our loving God?
    If we really mean respect then why not use respect?
    I’ll just bet Martin would understand.
    Is the goal to be “true ” to Martin or to bring us close to our loving savior?

    • Eric Forss July 4, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

      Martin? Do you mean the same Martin (Luther) who answered the question, “What does God same about all these commandments?” saying, “God threatens to punish all who break these commandments. Therefore, we should fear His wrath, and not do anything against them. But He promises grace and every blessing to to all who keep these commandments. Therefore, we should also love and trust in Him and gladly do what He commands.”

      “Fear His wrath” sounds like a whole lot more than respect. Yes, we are to respect God, but the threat is these as well, giving substance to the Law’s function as a curb to our sinful flesh and its desires. See Question 70-72 (pp. 94-95) of the current edition of the catechism. Also consider, for example, Romans 3:19-20, 4:15a; Colossians 3:5-6; Galatians 6:7; and Hebrews 10:26-27).

      As important as respect is, and no one denies that it is, “respect” simply doesn’t stretch far enough to embrace these dire and earnest warnings from our just and holy God, whose wrath truly is to be feared. And what great wrath it is: look a what is cost to quench it for those who belong to Him . . . the death of His Son (Galatians 3:13; Romans 5:9; 2 Corinthians 5:21; etc.).

      I hope this helps.

  4. Jeffrey L Falin July 1, 2016 at 10:03 am #

    One problem I had with the Catechism was the section on abortion. It is wrong except in saving the life of the mother. Where does God give us that permission? If the mother’s life is in danger can not that baby be taken by Caesarean section. Where is the value of life?

    Confession of sins. One question, do we have to confess our sins to a pastor before they are forgiven? This is a question some have. Even though there is a note that says no one may be forced to make private confession. We are making it sound like unless you do, your sins are not forgiven.

    • Eric Forss July 4, 2016 at 11:53 am #

      Abortion: There are instances in which a pregnancy has gone awry and the baby can not be saved, but the mother’s life can, as, for example, in the case of a tubal pregnancy. The exception is intended to be applied in situations such as this, in which abortion, unfortunately, is the only remaining moral option.

      Confession: It is not necessary to confess sins to the pastor for them to be forgiven, as Questions 262-264 (pp. 218-219) in the current edition of the catechism explain. At the same time, ministerial absolution is commended because it is a great comfort to those whose sin weigh heavily on their consciences To set one’s heart at rest, the penitent may require it, but this requirement is rooted in his/her need, not in an outwardly-imposed churchly demand.

      I hope this helps.

      • Diane Falin August 14, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

        Maybe it would be better to explain this in the Catechism so if those who read it to learn what our LCMS teaches and believes will not become confused or turned against it.
        I doubt there are very many “tubal pregnancy” that God will not take care of in His own way. In any and all case, both mother and child should be given equal care to survive. The mother has had the opportunity to hear the gospel but the infant has not.
        Maybe that part could just be left off as in early years and let the pastor further explain “the procedure” if the question comes up.

        In the Confession, the confused reader has to read much further to pp 218 to understand that it is not necessary to confess sins to a LMS pastor to be forgiven.

    • August 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

      No mortal man, or pastor can forgive sins, only JESUS can.

  5. Deanna Weymuth July 1, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    Please publish in Android as well as Mac.

  6. Donna Weiss July 2, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    Why don’t you just leave it alone, it is and was wonderful just the way Luther wrote it. I am upset with all the changes to everything, Even the words to hymns are being changed I was singing from memory and my Grandaughter said Grandma you are singing the wrong words, I replied no they printed the wrong ones on the screen. No one uses the King James version of the Bible anymore what is wrong with it. I prepare my Confirmation Lesson using the KJV over any of these newer versions.

    • Rev. Thomas Wenndt July 6, 2016 at 8:54 am #

      The section of the catechism written by Martin Luther (which has had to be translated, of course, from German to English) is NOT being changed. Curiously, most of what is in our Small Catechisms – the question-and-answer section in the back 3/4th’s of the book – was not written by Luther. He only wrote the Six Chief parts, along with the Table of Duties and the “Christian Questions with their answers”.

      That said, I guess my concern goes the other way. In my opinion, those questions must reflect accuracy in terms of answers that properly show what Luther both said and meant in the chief parts – which I believe they are trying to do a good job with. But they also must be questions both asked and answered in a fashion that properly reflects what we Christians face here in the 21st century.

      The first indications are that the catechism committee is not changing the essence of the 306 questions that are in the current catechism – AT ALL. That in itself is a major mistake, not only because there is no reason to feel like those questions are ordained for purity (neither Luther nor the writers of Holy Scripture wrote these), but because many of them have just become outdated – meaning the premise on which we answer these questions have transformed to the point where no answer can accurately reflect what we need answers for in today’s non-religious environment.

      Between the challenges of the modern Evangelical movement, as well as the seismic shift in basic theology from those church bodies once considered as “mainline”, we need both answers AND QUESTIONS that allow us to both teach and learn the Christian faith in a way that helps us in terms of witnessing to those both outside the church and inside but who believe things totally contrary to Scripture.

      Both you and I should and will wait for the draft to come out – but we both need to be active in terms of helping this committee understand that the finished product must be the best of the best – reflecting both your concerns and mine. THANKS FOR WRITING!

  7. Jim Barlow July 3, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    I have always felt that instead of “fear” of the Lord “in awe” is more appropriate. If you’re disobeying God, after a short reflection, awe becomes fear but it’s self-inflicted.

  8. Peter A. Richert July 4, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    Since I’m inherently lazy and like workbook resources that I can tweek with minimal effort, I hope companion workbooks for adult instruction (8-12 sessions…90 minutes max each) and a junior confirmation version (24-30 sessions…90 minutes max) are written to correspond with the new catechism. NPH’s Basic Bible Christianity by Jon Buchholz offers a nice format as he requires the students who use it to dig directly into the scriptures as they also study the basic text of the catechism.

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