Closed Communion question

I know that the confessional Lutheran practice of “closed communion,” in which you have to be a member of the church body (or a member of a church in formal doctrinal fellowship with that church body) to commune at the Lutheran altar, is offensive to many non-Lutherans.  I don’t particularly want to debate that practice, which we’ve talked about extensively.  Rather, I would like to ask those of you who are offended some questions:  Have you ever been to a Roman Catholic mass or an Eastern Orthodox divine liturgy?  Perhaps you attended a funeral or a wedding or had an assignment in a religion course or dropped in on a service for one reason or another.   Were you offended because you could not commune?  Did you expect to?  Did you even want to, given your theological reservations about what was going on?

Though some Roman Catholic priests will commune anyone, this is strictly forbidden by canon law.  I would say that there are proportionally more Missouri Synod Lutheran pastors who practice open communion, even though it is against denominational policy, than there are Catholic priests who do it.  And, as an Orthodox commenter helpfully observed in one of our earlier threads, you will come close to never finding open communion practiced in an Eastern Orthodox church.

Used to, one’s membership in a particular theological tradition was defined by whom you would take communion with.   Then we had the ecumenical movement, largely among Protestants, and different churches–usually highly liberal–started sharing Communion with everyone.

Anyway, my impression is that few people feel insulted when they don’t join Catholics or Orthodox in their sacramental rites.  After all, we think, I’m not Catholic or Orthodox.

So why is it different with Lutherans?

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • larry

    “Were you offended because you could not commune? Did you expect to? Did you even want to, given your theological reservations about what was going on?”

    Though I’m now Lutheran I can answer this personally experientially and honestly. No to all of them.

    We had more than one opportunity to attend a RC church for various reasons and experienced this very issue. In fact, due to our confession of faith (and we spoke with out baptist pastor at the time) we did not want to commune for their beliefs (real body/blood). By our confession we viewed it as heretical and thus didn’t want to. We even talked to our pastor about it before going, a wedding, and he concurred and gave good advice; to be courteous if offered in refusing it.

    And that’s pretty consistent with all the baptist we have on both sides of our family, life long ones, ministry ordained ones, generational baptist that date WAY back. When our respective family members visit our now Lutheran church none of them are offended and understand. Many of them, especially the older ones, even practiced their own closed communion in their churches. In fact its explicit in the SB F&M and LBCF, if you are not baptized, and that means “believers baptism”, you cannot commune.

  • larry

    “Were you offended because you could not commune? Did you expect to? Did you even want to, given your theological reservations about what was going on?”

    Though I’m now Lutheran I can answer this personally experientially and honestly. No to all of them.

    We had more than one opportunity to attend a RC church for various reasons and experienced this very issue. In fact, due to our confession of faith (and we spoke with out baptist pastor at the time) we did not want to commune for their beliefs (real body/blood). By our confession we viewed it as heretical and thus didn’t want to. We even talked to our pastor about it before going, a wedding, and he concurred and gave good advice; to be courteous if offered in refusing it.

    And that’s pretty consistent with all the baptist we have on both sides of our family, life long ones, ministry ordained ones, generational baptist that date WAY back. When our respective family members visit our now Lutheran church none of them are offended and understand. Many of them, especially the older ones, even practiced their own closed communion in their churches. In fact its explicit in the SB F&M and LBCF, if you are not baptized, and that means “believers baptism”, you cannot commune.

  • Tom Hering

    “So why is it different with Lutherans?”

    Because, being named after the guy who started that whole Reformation thing, people visit with the expectation that we’re different from Roman Catholics, and then think, “Hey, I’m not Roman Catholic either – why can’t I go up? Are you telling me I’m not a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone?”

    That’s the way I remember looking at it before I became a Lutheran.

  • Tom Hering

    “So why is it different with Lutherans?”

    Because, being named after the guy who started that whole Reformation thing, people visit with the expectation that we’re different from Roman Catholics, and then think, “Hey, I’m not Roman Catholic either – why can’t I go up? Are you telling me I’m not a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone?”

    That’s the way I remember looking at it before I became a Lutheran.

  • http://strangeherring.com Anthony Sacramone

    Because we’re Protestants, and Protestants are not supposed to take the sacraments *that* seriously. That smacks of sacramentalism, the thing Protestantism should be standing against.

    Also, closed communion implies that Lutherans do not think themselves members of just another denomination but a branch of the one holy CATHOLIC and apostolic church that behaves accordingly (i.e., like Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox). This is virtually unintelligible to most Protestants, who believe first and foremost in an invisible church with only local (read: temporary) manifestations.

  • http://strangeherring.com Anthony Sacramone

    Because we’re Protestants, and Protestants are not supposed to take the sacraments *that* seriously. That smacks of sacramentalism, the thing Protestantism should be standing against.

    Also, closed communion implies that Lutherans do not think themselves members of just another denomination but a branch of the one holy CATHOLIC and apostolic church that behaves accordingly (i.e., like Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox). This is virtually unintelligible to most Protestants, who believe first and foremost in an invisible church with only local (read: temporary) manifestations.

  • Dan Kempin

    “So why is it different with Lutherans?”

    For one thing, a very large proportion of those called “lutheran” has taught the opposite for some time now. Not only does the ELCA teach open communion, but they teach an aggressive open communion that leads people to approach the issue with an almost activist mindset. I suspect that much of the “offense” at closed communion is not so much from outsiders, but at its root a product of this rival teaching among other “lutherans.”

    Further complicate matters by recognizing that our changes in fellowship relations are, while valid, often confusing. Case in point, my first parish had been in fellowship with a local ALC congregation for years. They were intermarried and, for all practical purposes, sister congregations. In the course of events, that congregation came to fall under the umbrella of the newly formed ELCA. We were now no longer in fellowship with them. It was the same congregation, the same pastor, and the same people who had communed with us for years, but now they were not able. It is no wonder that some of my people, no theological slouches and certainly no liberals, struggled with this.

  • Dan Kempin

    “So why is it different with Lutherans?”

    For one thing, a very large proportion of those called “lutheran” has taught the opposite for some time now. Not only does the ELCA teach open communion, but they teach an aggressive open communion that leads people to approach the issue with an almost activist mindset. I suspect that much of the “offense” at closed communion is not so much from outsiders, but at its root a product of this rival teaching among other “lutherans.”

    Further complicate matters by recognizing that our changes in fellowship relations are, while valid, often confusing. Case in point, my first parish had been in fellowship with a local ALC congregation for years. They were intermarried and, for all practical purposes, sister congregations. In the course of events, that congregation came to fall under the umbrella of the newly formed ELCA. We were now no longer in fellowship with them. It was the same congregation, the same pastor, and the same people who had communed with us for years, but now they were not able. It is no wonder that some of my people, no theological slouches and certainly no liberals, struggled with this.

  • Dan Kempin

    Anthony, #3,
    Your straw man argument seems neither accurate nor constructive. And closing our fellowship to the RC and orthodox church implies that we are really in fellowship with them? Because we declare that we are not? What?

    Perhaps I am just misunderstanding you.

  • Dan Kempin

    Anthony, #3,
    Your straw man argument seems neither accurate nor constructive. And closing our fellowship to the RC and orthodox church implies that we are really in fellowship with them? Because we declare that we are not? What?

    Perhaps I am just misunderstanding you.

  • WebMonk

    For this non-Lutheran, it doesn’t offend me, it just fills me with a depressed resignation and sadness. I get the same feeling when I’m at Catholic Masses, and I’ve never been to an Orthodox service.

    I have communed at a Catholic Mass one time, though I was expecting to not do so. I’m not sure if it was a mistake or a purposeful practice, but they were handing the elements to everyone (300+ people, so there might have been mere practicality behind it) without any questions, and my Aunt indicated I should take it when I hesitated at my turn.

    I’ve been to other Masses, though, where it was clear that only the members were to take the elements. A bit of resigned sadness is probably the best description I have.

  • WebMonk

    For this non-Lutheran, it doesn’t offend me, it just fills me with a depressed resignation and sadness. I get the same feeling when I’m at Catholic Masses, and I’ve never been to an Orthodox service.

    I have communed at a Catholic Mass one time, though I was expecting to not do so. I’m not sure if it was a mistake or a purposeful practice, but they were handing the elements to everyone (300+ people, so there might have been mere practicality behind it) without any questions, and my Aunt indicated I should take it when I hesitated at my turn.

    I’ve been to other Masses, though, where it was clear that only the members were to take the elements. A bit of resigned sadness is probably the best description I have.

  • http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com Pastor Larry Peters

    Missouri understands the fellowship of the table to the apex of unity — not a means to it. Those who commune together have already found unity of confession. In other words, what you believe about that table is not portable — it does not go with you. When you commune somewhere, you are identifying with the confession of faith of that table. Since Lutherans are not in common confession with Rome or Constantinople, we do not commune there and they do not commune with us. Since Protestants are not in common confession with Lutherans (Missouri here), they do not commune with us and we do not commune with them.

    Some have diminished the common confession so that it represents mere broad agreement in generalities without agreement in specifics — unity in diversity — so the ELCA communes with those who do not confess the real presence of Christ because they have a higher value on their ecumenical agenda than they do a common confession. Missouri’s ecumenical agenda is to reach common confession.

    At a time when Lutherans were really much closer in confession, the old rule was Lutheran altars for Lutheran communicants and Lutheran pulpits for Lutheran pastors — the so-called Galesburg rule. The ELCA has pretty much repudiated this past and in most ELCA congregations anyone and everyone communes (even infants in many) without a common faith or confession. For Missouri this makes the supper meaningless — if we cannot even speak the same vocab when we confess Christ’s presence in the bread and wine (or if we cannot even agree He is present in the bread and the wine) what is the reason to commune together in the first place ?

    Missouri does not see Lutheranism as just another denomination or even a branch of Christianity. Missouri sees the Lutheran Confession of faith (Book of Concord 1580) as the truth held in trust for all true Christians. You might say that we see this faith as the legitimate catholic faith and Rome, with its innovations, as having breached that faith to live in error (purgatory, sacrifice of the mass, grace mixed with works among those errors). Lutherans have never really nailed down such a detailed review of Orthodoxy so there is no real confession stance toward the Orthodox.

  • http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com Pastor Larry Peters

    Missouri understands the fellowship of the table to the apex of unity — not a means to it. Those who commune together have already found unity of confession. In other words, what you believe about that table is not portable — it does not go with you. When you commune somewhere, you are identifying with the confession of faith of that table. Since Lutherans are not in common confession with Rome or Constantinople, we do not commune there and they do not commune with us. Since Protestants are not in common confession with Lutherans (Missouri here), they do not commune with us and we do not commune with them.

    Some have diminished the common confession so that it represents mere broad agreement in generalities without agreement in specifics — unity in diversity — so the ELCA communes with those who do not confess the real presence of Christ because they have a higher value on their ecumenical agenda than they do a common confession. Missouri’s ecumenical agenda is to reach common confession.

    At a time when Lutherans were really much closer in confession, the old rule was Lutheran altars for Lutheran communicants and Lutheran pulpits for Lutheran pastors — the so-called Galesburg rule. The ELCA has pretty much repudiated this past and in most ELCA congregations anyone and everyone communes (even infants in many) without a common faith or confession. For Missouri this makes the supper meaningless — if we cannot even speak the same vocab when we confess Christ’s presence in the bread and wine (or if we cannot even agree He is present in the bread and the wine) what is the reason to commune together in the first place ?

    Missouri does not see Lutheranism as just another denomination or even a branch of Christianity. Missouri sees the Lutheran Confession of faith (Book of Concord 1580) as the truth held in trust for all true Christians. You might say that we see this faith as the legitimate catholic faith and Rome, with its innovations, as having breached that faith to live in error (purgatory, sacrifice of the mass, grace mixed with works among those errors). Lutherans have never really nailed down such a detailed review of Orthodoxy so there is no real confession stance toward the Orthodox.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Our communion has a fence around it, as well. We are Lutherans.

    We announce that the body and blood of Christ is for all those who are baptized. Then we announce that it is for all those who believe that the Lord is truly present in the meal. If you are baptized and believe He is in it, then come and receive Him.

    That restricts some right off the bat.

    We don’t restrict people on the basis of their imperfect doctrine. We don’t say since you believe in a so called “third use” of the law you cannot receive Christ. Or, you must believe that the text of the Bible is absolutely perfect and without error, or you cannot receive Christ.

    We want to do all we can to make Christ available to people. We feel He can handle whatever problems there are within people and their imperfect doctrine, or lack of understanding.

    So all Missouri Synod Lutherans would be welcome at our Communion railing…even though we are not welcome at theirs.

    Handing over Christ is our mission…not erecting fences around Him.

    .
    Off to work, so I won’t be able to reply to those who disagree with me (us) for a while.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Our communion has a fence around it, as well. We are Lutherans.

    We announce that the body and blood of Christ is for all those who are baptized. Then we announce that it is for all those who believe that the Lord is truly present in the meal. If you are baptized and believe He is in it, then come and receive Him.

    That restricts some right off the bat.

    We don’t restrict people on the basis of their imperfect doctrine. We don’t say since you believe in a so called “third use” of the law you cannot receive Christ. Or, you must believe that the text of the Bible is absolutely perfect and without error, or you cannot receive Christ.

    We want to do all we can to make Christ available to people. We feel He can handle whatever problems there are within people and their imperfect doctrine, or lack of understanding.

    So all Missouri Synod Lutherans would be welcome at our Communion railing…even though we are not welcome at theirs.

    Handing over Christ is our mission…not erecting fences around Him.

    .
    Off to work, so I won’t be able to reply to those who disagree with me (us) for a while.

  • SKPeterson

    Steve @ 8 – The problem though is that the type of close communion you describe, which derives in many respects from the Galesburg Rule noted by Pr. Peters @ 7, as made operative in the ELCA does not erect a fence. While pastors regularly announce that one must be baptized and believe in the real presence, they do not actively safeguard the distribution of the sacrament – they do not examine those who partake, but assume that those who come up do actually believe. From my experience in the ELCA I would also say that the announcement of baptism/real presence qualifications is often not mentioned or even tacitly acknowledged, at best there is a “for all who believe and are baptized,” remark, quickly mumbled after the institution. Missouri pastors take a different view, some harder, some softer, on policing communicants to ascertain their beliefs. The easiest way of course being to recognize members of the congregation as being baptized and confirmed.

    Now, though, the ELCA has widened the gulf that separates itself from LCMS and WELS. It has (recklessly IMHO) begun to ecumenicize with anyone and everyone such that it has effectively lost touch with what the “L” in ELCA should stand for and have become just another stale, mainline, evangelical Protestant denomination without much to say beyond politically correct social statements. In fact, it could be said that common adherence to social statements are a bigger factor in determining altar and pulpit fellowship for the ELCA in its ecumenicism than any adherence to historical orthodox Lutheran theology and practice.

  • SKPeterson

    Steve @ 8 – The problem though is that the type of close communion you describe, which derives in many respects from the Galesburg Rule noted by Pr. Peters @ 7, as made operative in the ELCA does not erect a fence. While pastors regularly announce that one must be baptized and believe in the real presence, they do not actively safeguard the distribution of the sacrament – they do not examine those who partake, but assume that those who come up do actually believe. From my experience in the ELCA I would also say that the announcement of baptism/real presence qualifications is often not mentioned or even tacitly acknowledged, at best there is a “for all who believe and are baptized,” remark, quickly mumbled after the institution. Missouri pastors take a different view, some harder, some softer, on policing communicants to ascertain their beliefs. The easiest way of course being to recognize members of the congregation as being baptized and confirmed.

    Now, though, the ELCA has widened the gulf that separates itself from LCMS and WELS. It has (recklessly IMHO) begun to ecumenicize with anyone and everyone such that it has effectively lost touch with what the “L” in ELCA should stand for and have become just another stale, mainline, evangelical Protestant denomination without much to say beyond politically correct social statements. In fact, it could be said that common adherence to social statements are a bigger factor in determining altar and pulpit fellowship for the ELCA in its ecumenicism than any adherence to historical orthodox Lutheran theology and practice.

  • Larry

    I think what Dan says has some truth to it, although in the baptist cirlces we’d still not commune on the same basis we’d not with RC, the not just real presence (spiritual real presence, ala, Reformed, capital “R” is acceptable) but that it is the real and true BODY and BLOOD is what we would have had no problem not communing with in either. Reformed are mixed on this, some more on the Puritan side, would be much like the hard baptist and not commune as it would be an “intolerable heresy” per their confessions and “superstition” as much of their confessions say that it is (e.g. Beza).

    And because of this those “Lutheran” churches that communicate anyone by saying the statement “do you believe He is truly present” is falsely presenting it to everyone in that communion moment. Does one mean: Truly present spiritually only ala Calvin and Zwingli, and if so reformed would even voluntarily desire to come. or does one mean: Truly present meaning the flesh and blood of the Son of God is going to be put into my mouth, the very same that hung on the cross and bled and died for me and NOT just spiritually. Big difference!

    Thus, it is false to both a visiting Reformed or Lutheran under such a generic statement as “do you believe He is truly present”. Well, yea every single confession believes Jesus is present “where two or three are gathered togethered” too. Which means everybody no matter what they confess on the LS could commune. It’s also false and dangerous to Lutherans because what is it you are saying to them “do you believe He is truly present”, is His true and real body and blood being put into one’s mouth or not?

    Such a communion statement robs the pro me and is tantamount to removing the “for you” in fact in person by casting doubt. It is like heterodox churches in which one stays because if one listens to the beloved pastor and wishes he was more 200 proof Gospel and so every Sunday after the sermon you personally “patch up” the sermon by saying, “Well he must have meant Gospel there when it sounded strangely like Law, so my good pastor is preaching Gospel just a little sloppily”.

    It removes the pro me because one cannot preach the Gospel to one’s self or absolve one’s self, nor really self imply in the words “…everyone who believes He is present” must mean I’ll just patch in the words, “His very and true body and blood”.

    So its unfair to both counter confessions, the one who in conscience cannot ascend to what they think is superstious heresy and the one’s whose hearts depend on the Gospel of it.

    It’s hiding the ball.

  • Larry

    I think what Dan says has some truth to it, although in the baptist cirlces we’d still not commune on the same basis we’d not with RC, the not just real presence (spiritual real presence, ala, Reformed, capital “R” is acceptable) but that it is the real and true BODY and BLOOD is what we would have had no problem not communing with in either. Reformed are mixed on this, some more on the Puritan side, would be much like the hard baptist and not commune as it would be an “intolerable heresy” per their confessions and “superstition” as much of their confessions say that it is (e.g. Beza).

    And because of this those “Lutheran” churches that communicate anyone by saying the statement “do you believe He is truly present” is falsely presenting it to everyone in that communion moment. Does one mean: Truly present spiritually only ala Calvin and Zwingli, and if so reformed would even voluntarily desire to come. or does one mean: Truly present meaning the flesh and blood of the Son of God is going to be put into my mouth, the very same that hung on the cross and bled and died for me and NOT just spiritually. Big difference!

    Thus, it is false to both a visiting Reformed or Lutheran under such a generic statement as “do you believe He is truly present”. Well, yea every single confession believes Jesus is present “where two or three are gathered togethered” too. Which means everybody no matter what they confess on the LS could commune. It’s also false and dangerous to Lutherans because what is it you are saying to them “do you believe He is truly present”, is His true and real body and blood being put into one’s mouth or not?

    Such a communion statement robs the pro me and is tantamount to removing the “for you” in fact in person by casting doubt. It is like heterodox churches in which one stays because if one listens to the beloved pastor and wishes he was more 200 proof Gospel and so every Sunday after the sermon you personally “patch up” the sermon by saying, “Well he must have meant Gospel there when it sounded strangely like Law, so my good pastor is preaching Gospel just a little sloppily”.

    It removes the pro me because one cannot preach the Gospel to one’s self or absolve one’s self, nor really self imply in the words “…everyone who believes He is present” must mean I’ll just patch in the words, “His very and true body and blood”.

    So its unfair to both counter confessions, the one who in conscience cannot ascend to what they think is superstious heresy and the one’s whose hearts depend on the Gospel of it.

    It’s hiding the ball.

  • Lou

    For me, the issue is how “the fence” gets defined. As a PCA member, our stance is that our unity is in the blood of Christ that gave us salvation and membership in a local Bible-believing church. From that standpoint, most Protestants take issue with the Roman Catholic church because of their definition of salvation not being by grace through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. I have not had any interactions with the Orthodox church, so I don’t know about that.

    I’d be interested in knowing what scripture reference Lutherans use to bar other Protestant believers from their communion table.

    Here are a few that I’ve heard quoted in the PCA to extend fellowship/communion to other denominations (Of course, there are many others, but these came to mind at the moment.):
    “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).

    “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

    Scripturally, how do Lutherans justify exclusion of other believers at the communion table?

  • Lou

    For me, the issue is how “the fence” gets defined. As a PCA member, our stance is that our unity is in the blood of Christ that gave us salvation and membership in a local Bible-believing church. From that standpoint, most Protestants take issue with the Roman Catholic church because of their definition of salvation not being by grace through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. I have not had any interactions with the Orthodox church, so I don’t know about that.

    I’d be interested in knowing what scripture reference Lutherans use to bar other Protestant believers from their communion table.

    Here are a few that I’ve heard quoted in the PCA to extend fellowship/communion to other denominations (Of course, there are many others, but these came to mind at the moment.):
    “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:20-23).

    “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have communion with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

    Scripturally, how do Lutherans justify exclusion of other believers at the communion table?

  • Dan Kempin

    It might be helpful for discussion to recognize that the practice of closed communion is not based on the theology of the sacrament, but rather on the theology of fellowship. It is a fellowship issue.

    (In my experience, failure to clarify that causes confusion and much controversy.)

  • Dan Kempin

    It might be helpful for discussion to recognize that the practice of closed communion is not based on the theology of the sacrament, but rather on the theology of fellowship. It is a fellowship issue.

    (In my experience, failure to clarify that causes confusion and much controversy.)

  • Lou

    Oops. Larry posted his comment #10 while I was still writing.
    Okay, so the bar to taking communion has to do with the differences between our understandings of the “real presence” of Christ, however nuanced they may or may not be. So issues of consubstantiation, transubstantiation, and the like come to the fore. In reformed tradition the “Real presence” of Christ is affirmed, but it is spiritual and physical, so that is an area of difference. The reformed position from WCF Ch29:
    http://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_chapxxvi-xxx.htm#chapxxix

    I guess the question is how closely aligned do our traditions and personal beliefs have to be in order to qualify for unity in communion? I see a danger in drawing the line too far out, especially when we consider the benefits to the recipient.

    I think the scripture tells us plainly who ought to be denied the table (those not in fellowship with the household of God via Christ’s Church) and how the table is otherwise to be fenced (church discipline). My opinion.

  • Lou

    Oops. Larry posted his comment #10 while I was still writing.
    Okay, so the bar to taking communion has to do with the differences between our understandings of the “real presence” of Christ, however nuanced they may or may not be. So issues of consubstantiation, transubstantiation, and the like come to the fore. In reformed tradition the “Real presence” of Christ is affirmed, but it is spiritual and physical, so that is an area of difference. The reformed position from WCF Ch29:
    http://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_chapxxvi-xxx.htm#chapxxix

    I guess the question is how closely aligned do our traditions and personal beliefs have to be in order to qualify for unity in communion? I see a danger in drawing the line too far out, especially when we consider the benefits to the recipient.

    I think the scripture tells us plainly who ought to be denied the table (those not in fellowship with the household of God via Christ’s Church) and how the table is otherwise to be fenced (church discipline). My opinion.

  • Lou

    should be “spiritual and NOT physical” sorry.

  • Lou

    should be “spiritual and NOT physical” sorry.

  • ThreeFormed

    I’m part of a confessional Reformed church that is part of the United Reformed Church in North America. Before each service, our minister fences the table by stating three requirements: 1) you must believe in the Reformed “real presence” doctrine (which excludes Zwinglians as much as Roman Catholics); 2) you must be a member in good standing of either a Reformed or a Presbyterian church (and he strictly defines that these must be confessional R & P churches); and 3) children of believers must have the permission of the elders to commune (this is to protect against the practice of paedocommunion in some R & P churches). While we don’t explicitly state it, we will also commune Lutherans, but they have to talk to the pastor and elders in a little more detail first to ensure that they are Lutherans of the confessional type.

    This is probably the most offensive thing our church does, because most of our visitors are coming out of evangelicalism. I think in general that Sacramone nails the reason in comment 3 with his observation that most evangelicals devalue the visible church with their twisted understanding of the invisible church. That and they buy into the Roman Catholic definition of “Protestant”, i.e., all non-catholics are Protestants, rather than what I would consider to be a more correct division of Catholics, Protestants (Lutheran, Reformed, 39-Articles Anglican, Presbyterian), and Anabaptists (the spiritual forebears of most modern evangelicals).

  • ThreeFormed

    I’m part of a confessional Reformed church that is part of the United Reformed Church in North America. Before each service, our minister fences the table by stating three requirements: 1) you must believe in the Reformed “real presence” doctrine (which excludes Zwinglians as much as Roman Catholics); 2) you must be a member in good standing of either a Reformed or a Presbyterian church (and he strictly defines that these must be confessional R & P churches); and 3) children of believers must have the permission of the elders to commune (this is to protect against the practice of paedocommunion in some R & P churches). While we don’t explicitly state it, we will also commune Lutherans, but they have to talk to the pastor and elders in a little more detail first to ensure that they are Lutherans of the confessional type.

    This is probably the most offensive thing our church does, because most of our visitors are coming out of evangelicalism. I think in general that Sacramone nails the reason in comment 3 with his observation that most evangelicals devalue the visible church with their twisted understanding of the invisible church. That and they buy into the Roman Catholic definition of “Protestant”, i.e., all non-catholics are Protestants, rather than what I would consider to be a more correct division of Catholics, Protestants (Lutheran, Reformed, 39-Articles Anglican, Presbyterian), and Anabaptists (the spiritual forebears of most modern evangelicals).

  • http://strangeherring.com Anthony Sacramone

    Dan #5:
    I think you are, although I’m not sure I understand your objection to what I wrote (which, admittedly, I did hastily). Most Protestant denominations, and especially evangelical churches, practice open communion because they have either a symbolic view of the sacraments or see themselves as part of one general Protestant movement, with closer or looser adherence to the creeds and Scripture. For the mainliners, being inclusive is very important. For evangelicals, conscious of sectarianism, not alienating other evangelicals who may differ on this or that point of doctrine is important. Confessional Lutherans generally have a different perception of themselves, as not merely another Protestant denomination, but as the reformed Catholic church. If the Roman Catholic Church practices closed communion because it insists that those who come to the altar be in real communion with the Body, why should it be strange for Lutherans to do the same — which was Professor Veith’s original question. I say probably because it is believed by many that Protestants aren’t supposed to be that insular, a trait usually ascribed to Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. We don’t see it as being insular; we see the integrity of the liturgy and Luther’s fight to retain a particular meaning for the sacraments as nonnegotiables for membership in the Body (although not the *sole* nonegotiables, justification by faith being another). And Communion is food for the Body, not those alienated from it, even if *only* on one or two points of doctrine. I hope this clarifies, although you may still disagree.

  • http://strangeherring.com Anthony Sacramone

    Dan #5:
    I think you are, although I’m not sure I understand your objection to what I wrote (which, admittedly, I did hastily). Most Protestant denominations, and especially evangelical churches, practice open communion because they have either a symbolic view of the sacraments or see themselves as part of one general Protestant movement, with closer or looser adherence to the creeds and Scripture. For the mainliners, being inclusive is very important. For evangelicals, conscious of sectarianism, not alienating other evangelicals who may differ on this or that point of doctrine is important. Confessional Lutherans generally have a different perception of themselves, as not merely another Protestant denomination, but as the reformed Catholic church. If the Roman Catholic Church practices closed communion because it insists that those who come to the altar be in real communion with the Body, why should it be strange for Lutherans to do the same — which was Professor Veith’s original question. I say probably because it is believed by many that Protestants aren’t supposed to be that insular, a trait usually ascribed to Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. We don’t see it as being insular; we see the integrity of the liturgy and Luther’s fight to retain a particular meaning for the sacraments as nonnegotiables for membership in the Body (although not the *sole* nonegotiables, justification by faith being another). And Communion is food for the Body, not those alienated from it, even if *only* on one or two points of doctrine. I hope this clarifies, although you may still disagree.

  • Cincinnatus

    The definition of the fence, as others have noted, is what is problematic to outsiders. While I am not “offended” at being denied communion with Lutherans specifically, I am perplexed–mostly at a theoretical level, as I do not have frequent cause to wander into Lutheran churches. Why am I, a baptized (Anglican) Christian who believes in the priority of the Sacraments, in the Real Presence, in the ecumenical creeds, denied communion with fellow believers who share my faith and whose faith I share in all (I think?) essentials? For Catholics and the Orthodox, it is different: their faith is distinct from mine, and their “excuses” for closed communion are quite explicit. But does the Lutheran church claim to by the one true church? I don’t think so…

    In short, I could understand denying communion to, say, Baptists. But what about a sacramental Anglican, etc.? I could imagine an argument from practicality–it’s easiest simply to preclude all who are not Lutheran–but I’ve never heard anyone make that argument.

  • Cincinnatus

    The definition of the fence, as others have noted, is what is problematic to outsiders. While I am not “offended” at being denied communion with Lutherans specifically, I am perplexed–mostly at a theoretical level, as I do not have frequent cause to wander into Lutheran churches. Why am I, a baptized (Anglican) Christian who believes in the priority of the Sacraments, in the Real Presence, in the ecumenical creeds, denied communion with fellow believers who share my faith and whose faith I share in all (I think?) essentials? For Catholics and the Orthodox, it is different: their faith is distinct from mine, and their “excuses” for closed communion are quite explicit. But does the Lutheran church claim to by the one true church? I don’t think so…

    In short, I could understand denying communion to, say, Baptists. But what about a sacramental Anglican, etc.? I could imagine an argument from practicality–it’s easiest simply to preclude all who are not Lutheran–but I’ve never heard anyone make that argument.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Personally, I’m never offended by being excluded from Communion in LCMS churches (admittedly I rarely visit one), but I often wish I were excluded in the ELCA churches I end up visiting now and then. I hate to come out in front of friends and relatives and say, “I’d rather not participate in an ELCA communion, due to its doctrinal stands.” It would be much more convenient if they’d just say, “You’re too narrow-minded for us and we don’t want you.” But I guess that would be asking them to draw a line, something they resist doing.

  • http://www.brandywinebooks.net Lars Walker

    Personally, I’m never offended by being excluded from Communion in LCMS churches (admittedly I rarely visit one), but I often wish I were excluded in the ELCA churches I end up visiting now and then. I hate to come out in front of friends and relatives and say, “I’d rather not participate in an ELCA communion, due to its doctrinal stands.” It would be much more convenient if they’d just say, “You’re too narrow-minded for us and we don’t want you.” But I guess that would be asking them to draw a line, something they resist doing.

  • fws

    Why the sadness Webmonk?
    The point of this post is to turn the microphone over to men and women like you here so we Lutherans can better understand your point of view.

    So please dear brother: tell us more! Why the sadness?

    Now in the process of asking you this, I would like permission from you to explain why we Lutherans feel that the practice of closed communion is essential in preaching the Holy Gospel, and to do this, I need to explain what Closed Communion is.

    What Dr Veith presented is not , precisely, Closed or Close communion. He says that Closed Communion is a one-size-fits-all-circumstances that only those members of congregations in fellowship with the LCMS are allowed to commune. This is normally applied as a legalism. It is not what Closed Communion is. It should instead be a guideline.

    I am strongly suggesting dear Webmonk that your sadness is that you sense this legalism. You sense that this is a rule that seems actually to subvert the intent of the Holy Supper by some ridged and thoughtless and at times cruel man-made dictum that ignores the intent of Christ , which is for all believers to partake.

    So I expect, as I explain the Lutheran response to this concern, and it IS a valid and sincere concern that must not be dismissed lightly, that you will be perhaps surprised that I need to justify the Lutheran position by starting with the Law of God and not the Holy Gospel.

    So then I am begging these 3 questions:

    What is closed communion (Hint: It is Law! This should be obvious!)?
    Why is this Law necessary for the sake of the Holy Gospel?
    Thirdly: How is this to look according to the Apostolic practice according to the Ordering and Command of Christ Himself? This is to ask: how are we to avoid legalism and so avoid doing sacrifice rather than mercy in following the Command of Christ?

    First: Closed Communion is merely this:

    Closed communion is a pastor following the Law of God. It is that simple. It is really nothing more than that.

    This is because a baptized communes why? It is to follow the Command of Christ. This is Law. This is not Gospel!

    Further, I hope that I can show you here: It is a legal (read legitimate or true) requirement of our dear Lord for our own good . This is not a legal-ism. However it often devolves into legalism in the LCMS.

    The indisputable fact that closed communion often devolves into legalism in the LCMS and the WELS does not annul the apostolic imperative.

    This Law of God requires that each christian pastor feel burdened in his conscience to ensure that each baptized believer is equipped to do exactly as St Paul instructs each believer to do in Holy Scripture.

    And that is precisely and only this: “Let a man examine himself” to be able to recognize what is received in the Blessed Sacrament.

    Closed Communion is about that SELF examination that each believer is commanded to do. The pastor cannot do this for the baptized. Each baptized must do this for his own self. And this self examination is demanded and commanded by Christ himself. It is Law. And as with ALL Law, which always accuses, the Law is to bring us to Christ as our schoolmaster.

    So this is a Command and Ordering of Christ Himself through Paul. Pastors should know that God will punish them if they do not take this duty seriously and thus compel them to do it if they refuse.

    Secondly then: Why is this command of Christ to burden the consciences of pastors in this way? This is to ask this: How does all this Law talk actually serve the Holy Gospel?

    It is so that the pastor can , in turn, then be equipped to do yet another Law thing: a pastor has a duty to burden the consciences, with the Command of Christ, of all those who are now equipped to examine themselves! So more Law! And the Law always accuses!

    Ok. I have just stated that this is all, so far, pure Law. I suspect that even some Lutherans here will be sort of surprised by this approach. I will show shortly that this is the very approach of our Lutheran Confessions. So don’t tune out just yet!

    But what about the Gospel you should ask? Isn’t the Blessed Sacrament the Holy Gospel in the form of Christ giving us the very Body and Blood he purchase us sinners with? Yes indeed it is! So that bring me to.. more Law. Please bear with me.

    Pastors have an additional duty commanded by Christ Himself. Pastors are to burden the consciences of baptized believers in order to have those believers feed a burning hunger for the Holy Supper that drives and compels them to that Holy Supper. The basis for our partaking of the Holy Supper is a Law one! Christ says ” DO this! ” This is a command of Christ. This is the Law speaking. And the Law always does what? Our Lutheran Confessions say this: “The Law ALWAYS accuses!”

    Now my question is this for you Webmonk: how will a pastor be able to do this preaching that accuses and inflicts a conscience if he has not first equipped his flock to do this self examination?

    And you should be thinking this: Frank! Again more Law! Again the question should be : where is the Holy Gospel in all this Frank?

    So let’s pause to let our Lutheran Confessions speak to you Webmonk and make the same two points I have just made.

    In this quote you will now see the second point as to WHY closed communion is necessary. It is for the Gospel! You will also see how this Law preaching serves a Gospel purpose and also how it is not to become a legalism.

    But for even Lutherans to understand this, we need to take a small detour. We need to place this in the context of the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. I hope that the need for this will be apparent as you read on.

    Even many Lutherans place the visible things called Church, baptism , the Blessed Sacrament and such into the Left Hand Kingdom.

    This Kingdom is what the Confessions call the “Heavenly Kingdom where God rules by invisible faith and the Gospel for Goodness and Mercy in Christ alone. I am not sure where that “left hand’ business comes from.

    They do not consider that the visible rites of Church and Baptism and Communion are instead of the Right Hand Kingdom. This Kingdom is what the Confessions call the Earthly Kingdom of Law where God rules in order to extort Goodness and Mercy with the Law.

    This confusion and misunderstanding is quite contrary to our Lutheran Confessions. I suggest that it is why some Lutherans reading my post thus far are uncomfortable with me starting with the Law and staying there on this topic. And I suggest that the confusion of Law and Gospel by confusing the Two Kingdoms here, is precisely where the confusion is. Read on and see if I can convince you of this please:

    From Dr Luther’s Introduction to the Large Catechism:

    Comment: I think the two claims in bold are amazing

    17] For it needs must be that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures… And what, indeed, is the entire Psalter but thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment?

    This is presented as context for what follows:
    Now from the Introduction to Dr Luther’s Small Catechism:

    But those who are unwilling to learn [the 6 chief parts of the catechism] should be told that they deny Christ and are no Christians, neither should they be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at baptism, nor exercise any part of Christian liberty..Moreover, [they should be punished if they refuse].

    For although we cannot and should not force any one to believe, yet we should insist and urge the people that they know what is right and wrong with those among whom they dwell and wish to make their living.

    For whoever desires to reside in a town must know and observe the town laws, the protection of which he wishes to enjoy, no matter whether he is a believer or at heart and in private a rogue or knave.

    More Law.

    Comment, here Dr Luther is saying that Doctrine in an Earthly Kingdom Government we know as the Holy Catholic Church are the Laws of that Government! he says that learning Doctrine for members of the this Churchly Government is to be required for exactly the same reason citizens in the Civil Government must know and observe city ordinances.

    So for example, a father will insist that his family memorizes the catechism and attend church as a matter of order, but does not compel them to believe or receive the Blessed Sacrament and confuse faith with the requirement to do one’s duty.

    This is Two Kingdoms talk that describes the Holy Catholic Church as a government in the IDENTICAL sense that family and civil governments are governments! You will find this in our Confessions also here [in brackets I have inserted text from other parts of this article or other parts of our Confessions for clarity]:

    5] … the [Holy Catholic ] Church is … the fellowship of outward objects and rites, [exactly] as other governments. But this government [is called Holy because," in, with and under" this government alone exists the invisible fellowship of faith and of the Holy Ghost in hearts [that is the Communion of Saints].

    The Christian Church [properly speaking] consists in the fellowship of outward signs [as do the other two orderings of God called family and civil government].

    However in addition it consists especially in inward communion of eternal blessings in the heart, as of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of the fear and love of God.

    This [invisible] fellowship nevertheless has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ [and which Christ has ordered as Law for this government]

    [This is all to say this: Where we can see this Earthly Government called the Holy Catholic Church that is governed by Doctrine and the Adminstration of the Sacraments in conformity to the Command and Institution of Christ] … there certainly is the Church, and there are Christians [in , with and under that Holy Catholic Church that is an Earthly Government in the same sense that family and civil governments are earthly governments]

    And then this as practical advice on how to teach the Law to
    Christians…

    ..explain …broadly every commandment, article, petition, and part with its various works, uses, benefits, dangers, and injuries [?]…that they may be quiet and faithful, obedient and peaceable, and you must always adduce many examples from the Scriptures to show how God has punished or blessed such persons.
    Especially should you here urge magistrates and parents to rule well and to send their children to school, showing them why it is their duty to do this, and what a damnable sin they are committing if they do not do it. For by such neglect they overthrow and destroy both the kingdom of God and that of the world, acting as the worst enemies both of God and of men. And make it very plain to them what an awful harm they are doing if they will not help to train children to be pastors, preachers, clerks also for other offices, with which we cannot dispense in this life, etc., and that God will punish them terribly for it.

    Such preaching is needed. Verily, I do not know of any other topic that deserves to be treated as much as this. Parents and magistrates are now sinning unspeakably in this respect. The devil, too, aims at something cruel because of these things that he may hurl Germany into the greatest distress.

    Note that here Luther treats the matters of the administration of the Church, training pastors, etc, as looking like the same exercise as any other earthly affair and good work. But as to enforcing Doctrine as the Law that regulates the Church as a government things are a bit different:

    Lastly, since freed from the Pope’s Tyrany/Law, people are no longer willing to go to the Sacrament and despise it as something useless and unnecessary.

    Here again urging is necessary, however, with this understanding: We are to force no one to believe, or to receive the Sacrament, nor fix any law, nor time, nor place for it, but are to preach in such a manner that of their own accord, without our law, they will urge themselves and, as it were, compel us pastors to administer the Sacrament.

    Note then that how we do this is NOT to preach a Calvinist Third Use that does not accuse and kill Old Adam but rather feeds the New Man as non killing “encouragement ” or “instruction”:

    This is done by telling them:
    Whoever does not seek or desire the Sacrament at least some four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is no Christian, just as he is no Christian who does not believe or hear the Gospel; for Christ did not say, This omit, or, This despise, but, This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, etc. Verily, He wants it done, and not entirely neglected and despised. This do ye, He says.

    This is a preaching of the Law! This is preaching attendance to Word and Sacrament as Law. Luther is saying that the Government called the HCC does not compel with legalisms or rules as a family or civil authority would. Instead the Authorities proclaim the Law and let the HS work conformity to the Law. But this is STILL a preachment of the Law. It is “do this, or God will certainly punish you!”

    Then this preaching of the Law that no Moses could ever preach:

    Now, whoever does not highly value the Sacrament thereby shows that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell; that is, he does not believe any such things, although he is in them over head and ears and is doubly the devil’s own. On the other hand, he needs no grace, life, Paradise, heaven, Christ, God, nor anything good. For if he believed that he had so much that is evil, and needed so much that is good, he would not thus neglect the Sacrament, by which such evil is remedied and so much good is bestowed. Neither will it be necessary to force him to the Sacrament by any law, but he will come running and racing of his own accord, will force himself and urge you that you must give him the Sacrament.

    This is Law unveiled by the Veil of Moses that only faith can know and respond to. “Law Unveiled” means precisely that we are not preaching the Law as being about a doing that is as we keep a civil law that Old Adam can fully do.

    It is a Law preaching that is instead about a heart-keeping which we do not do and Old Adam cannot do, and the terror of knowing this Law drives us, “racing and running”, to the Blessed Sacrament.

    And so Luther explains exactly this in the following:

    Hence, you must not make any law in this matter, as the Pope does. [that is requiring specified times and places and do's and don'ts, etc. ie, legalism]

    Only set forth clearly the benefit and harm, the need and use, the danger and the blessing, connected with this Sacrament, and the people will come of themselves without your compulsion.
    But if they do not come, let them go and tell them that such belong to the devil as do not regard nor feel their great need and the gracious help of God.

    But if you do not urge this, or …make a law or a bane of it [ie again legalism], it is your fault if they despise the Sacrament.

    So in the government of Church even in the external form, it is the Word of God that provides it’s unity and not a compulsion of outward forms, rites, and rules. But that is not to say that there are not to be outward forms , rules and rites to maintain order and peace as with any other earthly government.

    I am sorry for such a long post, but I hope that, at a minimum, you can see that the Lutheran practice of closed communion is rather intricately connected to the very beating heart of Lutheran Doctrine. And that beating heart is , alone, the Works of Another that alone are able to cover our best virtues and hide them from the wrath of God.

    Love,

    frank william

  • fws

    Why the sadness Webmonk?
    The point of this post is to turn the microphone over to men and women like you here so we Lutherans can better understand your point of view.

    So please dear brother: tell us more! Why the sadness?

    Now in the process of asking you this, I would like permission from you to explain why we Lutherans feel that the practice of closed communion is essential in preaching the Holy Gospel, and to do this, I need to explain what Closed Communion is.

    What Dr Veith presented is not , precisely, Closed or Close communion. He says that Closed Communion is a one-size-fits-all-circumstances that only those members of congregations in fellowship with the LCMS are allowed to commune. This is normally applied as a legalism. It is not what Closed Communion is. It should instead be a guideline.

    I am strongly suggesting dear Webmonk that your sadness is that you sense this legalism. You sense that this is a rule that seems actually to subvert the intent of the Holy Supper by some ridged and thoughtless and at times cruel man-made dictum that ignores the intent of Christ , which is for all believers to partake.

    So I expect, as I explain the Lutheran response to this concern, and it IS a valid and sincere concern that must not be dismissed lightly, that you will be perhaps surprised that I need to justify the Lutheran position by starting with the Law of God and not the Holy Gospel.

    So then I am begging these 3 questions:

    What is closed communion (Hint: It is Law! This should be obvious!)?
    Why is this Law necessary for the sake of the Holy Gospel?
    Thirdly: How is this to look according to the Apostolic practice according to the Ordering and Command of Christ Himself? This is to ask: how are we to avoid legalism and so avoid doing sacrifice rather than mercy in following the Command of Christ?

    First: Closed Communion is merely this:

    Closed communion is a pastor following the Law of God. It is that simple. It is really nothing more than that.

    This is because a baptized communes why? It is to follow the Command of Christ. This is Law. This is not Gospel!

    Further, I hope that I can show you here: It is a legal (read legitimate or true) requirement of our dear Lord for our own good . This is not a legal-ism. However it often devolves into legalism in the LCMS.

    The indisputable fact that closed communion often devolves into legalism in the LCMS and the WELS does not annul the apostolic imperative.

    This Law of God requires that each christian pastor feel burdened in his conscience to ensure that each baptized believer is equipped to do exactly as St Paul instructs each believer to do in Holy Scripture.

    And that is precisely and only this: “Let a man examine himself” to be able to recognize what is received in the Blessed Sacrament.

    Closed Communion is about that SELF examination that each believer is commanded to do. The pastor cannot do this for the baptized. Each baptized must do this for his own self. And this self examination is demanded and commanded by Christ himself. It is Law. And as with ALL Law, which always accuses, the Law is to bring us to Christ as our schoolmaster.

    So this is a Command and Ordering of Christ Himself through Paul. Pastors should know that God will punish them if they do not take this duty seriously and thus compel them to do it if they refuse.

    Secondly then: Why is this command of Christ to burden the consciences of pastors in this way? This is to ask this: How does all this Law talk actually serve the Holy Gospel?

    It is so that the pastor can , in turn, then be equipped to do yet another Law thing: a pastor has a duty to burden the consciences, with the Command of Christ, of all those who are now equipped to examine themselves! So more Law! And the Law always accuses!

    Ok. I have just stated that this is all, so far, pure Law. I suspect that even some Lutherans here will be sort of surprised by this approach. I will show shortly that this is the very approach of our Lutheran Confessions. So don’t tune out just yet!

    But what about the Gospel you should ask? Isn’t the Blessed Sacrament the Holy Gospel in the form of Christ giving us the very Body and Blood he purchase us sinners with? Yes indeed it is! So that bring me to.. more Law. Please bear with me.

    Pastors have an additional duty commanded by Christ Himself. Pastors are to burden the consciences of baptized believers in order to have those believers feed a burning hunger for the Holy Supper that drives and compels them to that Holy Supper. The basis for our partaking of the Holy Supper is a Law one! Christ says ” DO this! ” This is a command of Christ. This is the Law speaking. And the Law always does what? Our Lutheran Confessions say this: “The Law ALWAYS accuses!”

    Now my question is this for you Webmonk: how will a pastor be able to do this preaching that accuses and inflicts a conscience if he has not first equipped his flock to do this self examination?

    And you should be thinking this: Frank! Again more Law! Again the question should be : where is the Holy Gospel in all this Frank?

    So let’s pause to let our Lutheran Confessions speak to you Webmonk and make the same two points I have just made.

    In this quote you will now see the second point as to WHY closed communion is necessary. It is for the Gospel! You will also see how this Law preaching serves a Gospel purpose and also how it is not to become a legalism.

    But for even Lutherans to understand this, we need to take a small detour. We need to place this in the context of the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms. I hope that the need for this will be apparent as you read on.

    Even many Lutherans place the visible things called Church, baptism , the Blessed Sacrament and such into the Left Hand Kingdom.

    This Kingdom is what the Confessions call the “Heavenly Kingdom where God rules by invisible faith and the Gospel for Goodness and Mercy in Christ alone. I am not sure where that “left hand’ business comes from.

    They do not consider that the visible rites of Church and Baptism and Communion are instead of the Right Hand Kingdom. This Kingdom is what the Confessions call the Earthly Kingdom of Law where God rules in order to extort Goodness and Mercy with the Law.

    This confusion and misunderstanding is quite contrary to our Lutheran Confessions. I suggest that it is why some Lutherans reading my post thus far are uncomfortable with me starting with the Law and staying there on this topic. And I suggest that the confusion of Law and Gospel by confusing the Two Kingdoms here, is precisely where the confusion is. Read on and see if I can convince you of this please:

    From Dr Luther’s Introduction to the Large Catechism:

    Comment: I think the two claims in bold are amazing

    17] For it needs must be that whoever knows the Ten Commandments perfectly must know all the Scriptures… And what, indeed, is the entire Psalter but thoughts and exercises upon the First Commandment?

    This is presented as context for what follows:
    Now from the Introduction to Dr Luther’s Small Catechism:

    But those who are unwilling to learn [the 6 chief parts of the catechism] should be told that they deny Christ and are no Christians, neither should they be admitted to the Sacrament, accepted as sponsors at baptism, nor exercise any part of Christian liberty..Moreover, [they should be punished if they refuse].

    For although we cannot and should not force any one to believe, yet we should insist and urge the people that they know what is right and wrong with those among whom they dwell and wish to make their living.

    For whoever desires to reside in a town must know and observe the town laws, the protection of which he wishes to enjoy, no matter whether he is a believer or at heart and in private a rogue or knave.

    More Law.

    Comment, here Dr Luther is saying that Doctrine in an Earthly Kingdom Government we know as the Holy Catholic Church are the Laws of that Government! he says that learning Doctrine for members of the this Churchly Government is to be required for exactly the same reason citizens in the Civil Government must know and observe city ordinances.

    So for example, a father will insist that his family memorizes the catechism and attend church as a matter of order, but does not compel them to believe or receive the Blessed Sacrament and confuse faith with the requirement to do one’s duty.

    This is Two Kingdoms talk that describes the Holy Catholic Church as a government in the IDENTICAL sense that family and civil governments are governments! You will find this in our Confessions also here [in brackets I have inserted text from other parts of this article or other parts of our Confessions for clarity]:

    5] … the [Holy Catholic ] Church is … the fellowship of outward objects and rites, [exactly] as other governments. But this government [is called Holy because," in, with and under" this government alone exists the invisible fellowship of faith and of the Holy Ghost in hearts [that is the Communion of Saints].

    The Christian Church [properly speaking] consists in the fellowship of outward signs [as do the other two orderings of God called family and civil government].

    However in addition it consists especially in inward communion of eternal blessings in the heart, as of the Holy Ghost, of faith, of the fear and love of God.

    This [invisible] fellowship nevertheless has outward marks so that it can be recognized, namely, the pure doctrine of the Gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments in accordance with the Gospel of Christ [and which Christ has ordered as Law for this government]

    [This is all to say this: Where we can see this Earthly Government called the Holy Catholic Church that is governed by Doctrine and the Adminstration of the Sacraments in conformity to the Command and Institution of Christ] … there certainly is the Church, and there are Christians [in , with and under that Holy Catholic Church that is an Earthly Government in the same sense that family and civil governments are earthly governments]

    And then this as practical advice on how to teach the Law to
    Christians…

    ..explain …broadly every commandment, article, petition, and part with its various works, uses, benefits, dangers, and injuries [?]…that they may be quiet and faithful, obedient and peaceable, and you must always adduce many examples from the Scriptures to show how God has punished or blessed such persons.
    Especially should you here urge magistrates and parents to rule well and to send their children to school, showing them why it is their duty to do this, and what a damnable sin they are committing if they do not do it. For by such neglect they overthrow and destroy both the kingdom of God and that of the world, acting as the worst enemies both of God and of men. And make it very plain to them what an awful harm they are doing if they will not help to train children to be pastors, preachers, clerks also for other offices, with which we cannot dispense in this life, etc., and that God will punish them terribly for it.

    Such preaching is needed. Verily, I do not know of any other topic that deserves to be treated as much as this. Parents and magistrates are now sinning unspeakably in this respect. The devil, too, aims at something cruel because of these things that he may hurl Germany into the greatest distress.

    Note that here Luther treats the matters of the administration of the Church, training pastors, etc, as looking like the same exercise as any other earthly affair and good work. But as to enforcing Doctrine as the Law that regulates the Church as a government things are a bit different:

    Lastly, since freed from the Pope’s Tyrany/Law, people are no longer willing to go to the Sacrament and despise it as something useless and unnecessary.

    Here again urging is necessary, however, with this understanding: We are to force no one to believe, or to receive the Sacrament, nor fix any law, nor time, nor place for it, but are to preach in such a manner that of their own accord, without our law, they will urge themselves and, as it were, compel us pastors to administer the Sacrament.

    Note then that how we do this is NOT to preach a Calvinist Third Use that does not accuse and kill Old Adam but rather feeds the New Man as non killing “encouragement ” or “instruction”:

    This is done by telling them:
    Whoever does not seek or desire the Sacrament at least some four times a year, it is to be feared that he despises the Sacrament and is no Christian, just as he is no Christian who does not believe or hear the Gospel; for Christ did not say, This omit, or, This despise, but, This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, etc. Verily, He wants it done, and not entirely neglected and despised. This do ye, He says.

    This is a preaching of the Law! This is preaching attendance to Word and Sacrament as Law. Luther is saying that the Government called the HCC does not compel with legalisms or rules as a family or civil authority would. Instead the Authorities proclaim the Law and let the HS work conformity to the Law. But this is STILL a preachment of the Law. It is “do this, or God will certainly punish you!”

    Then this preaching of the Law that no Moses could ever preach:

    Now, whoever does not highly value the Sacrament thereby shows that he has no sin, no flesh, no devil, no world, no death, no danger, no hell; that is, he does not believe any such things, although he is in them over head and ears and is doubly the devil’s own. On the other hand, he needs no grace, life, Paradise, heaven, Christ, God, nor anything good. For if he believed that he had so much that is evil, and needed so much that is good, he would not thus neglect the Sacrament, by which such evil is remedied and so much good is bestowed. Neither will it be necessary to force him to the Sacrament by any law, but he will come running and racing of his own accord, will force himself and urge you that you must give him the Sacrament.

    This is Law unveiled by the Veil of Moses that only faith can know and respond to. “Law Unveiled” means precisely that we are not preaching the Law as being about a doing that is as we keep a civil law that Old Adam can fully do.

    It is a Law preaching that is instead about a heart-keeping which we do not do and Old Adam cannot do, and the terror of knowing this Law drives us, “racing and running”, to the Blessed Sacrament.

    And so Luther explains exactly this in the following:

    Hence, you must not make any law in this matter, as the Pope does. [that is requiring specified times and places and do's and don'ts, etc. ie, legalism]

    Only set forth clearly the benefit and harm, the need and use, the danger and the blessing, connected with this Sacrament, and the people will come of themselves without your compulsion.
    But if they do not come, let them go and tell them that such belong to the devil as do not regard nor feel their great need and the gracious help of God.

    But if you do not urge this, or …make a law or a bane of it [ie again legalism], it is your fault if they despise the Sacrament.

    So in the government of Church even in the external form, it is the Word of God that provides it’s unity and not a compulsion of outward forms, rites, and rules. But that is not to say that there are not to be outward forms , rules and rites to maintain order and peace as with any other earthly government.

    I am sorry for such a long post, but I hope that, at a minimum, you can see that the Lutheran practice of closed communion is rather intricately connected to the very beating heart of Lutheran Doctrine. And that beating heart is , alone, the Works of Another that alone are able to cover our best virtues and hide them from the wrath of God.

    Love,

    frank william

  • Dan Kempin

    Anthony, #15,

    Thank you for the clarification. Having just reflected on the question, “why is this different with lutherans?” I took your comment as a sardonic criticism of lutherans’ own perception of the practice. I was mistaken. You were actually talking about the perception of lutherans from the outside, and with that understanding I withdraw my criticism. With my apologies, too, if that matters.

    I’m still not sure I go with you in saying that the practice of restrictive fellowship is a marker of our catholicism. That seems to me like saying true churches are identified by having a clearly defined doctrine of Christ–whether or not that doctrine agrees. But I get the point. The practice of restrictive fellowship is the more ancient and universal practice, even if it is not predominant in our own moment of time and culture.

    I still think it is important to maintain the fellowship nature of closed communion. Non-lutherans (and ELCA) please hear this: Closed communion is not about communion. We do not ask a visitor to refrain because their understanding of the Lord’s supper is incorrect. That may be the case (Baptist) or it may not (ELCA). The real question is whether we should participate in a public act of unity when important and dangerous differences exist.

    And PLEASE note that this distinction of fellowship is NOT to deny a person the Lord’s Supper, but based on the supposition that the visitor is able to receive the sacrament at the church of their affiliation. For the visitor, the question is not whether you should commune, (you should), but whether you, as a public believer of contrary doctrines, should commune with us.

    Refusal to commune a person because of their affiliation with another church

  • Dan Kempin

    Anthony, #15,

    Thank you for the clarification. Having just reflected on the question, “why is this different with lutherans?” I took your comment as a sardonic criticism of lutherans’ own perception of the practice. I was mistaken. You were actually talking about the perception of lutherans from the outside, and with that understanding I withdraw my criticism. With my apologies, too, if that matters.

    I’m still not sure I go with you in saying that the practice of restrictive fellowship is a marker of our catholicism. That seems to me like saying true churches are identified by having a clearly defined doctrine of Christ–whether or not that doctrine agrees. But I get the point. The practice of restrictive fellowship is the more ancient and universal practice, even if it is not predominant in our own moment of time and culture.

    I still think it is important to maintain the fellowship nature of closed communion. Non-lutherans (and ELCA) please hear this: Closed communion is not about communion. We do not ask a visitor to refrain because their understanding of the Lord’s supper is incorrect. That may be the case (Baptist) or it may not (ELCA). The real question is whether we should participate in a public act of unity when important and dangerous differences exist.

    And PLEASE note that this distinction of fellowship is NOT to deny a person the Lord’s Supper, but based on the supposition that the visitor is able to receive the sacrament at the church of their affiliation. For the visitor, the question is not whether you should commune, (you should), but whether you, as a public believer of contrary doctrines, should commune with us.

    Refusal to commune a person because of their affiliation with another church

  • Dan Kempin

    (Please disregard the final line of my previous comment.)

  • Dan Kempin

    (Please disregard the final line of my previous comment.)

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    So another Lutheran adds to this thread we were tacitly asked to hold back on. I really want to hear the non-lutherans. But I’d like to hear from them in such a manner as it doesn’t come out as an accusation. So far most of the answers from the non-Lutherans have betrayed ignorance to some degree of what the Lutheran teaching is.
    I did enjoy the plug to the Westminster Confession. No self respecting Lutheran, no Lutheran aware of what the Lutheran church teaches, or what the gospel is, could commune at a church that expressed such a vile opinion concerning the Lord’s Supper, and sorry, knowing that is a persons confession makes it an act of love, given 1 Cor. 10 and eleven, not to allow that person communion at a Lutheran Altar.
    And Cincinnatus, I don’t know if you mean by Real Presence the Same as the Westminster Confession or not, but that is the problem with you using that term. I say this in hopes that we can clear up the confusion. Real presence is a very slippery term. Lutherans tend not to use it for a reason. It was the one weakness in an otherwise very helpful book concerning this matter, Close Communion conversations, which for those interested can be purchased at “www.lawgospel.com” proceeds go to missionaries in the field.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    So another Lutheran adds to this thread we were tacitly asked to hold back on. I really want to hear the non-lutherans. But I’d like to hear from them in such a manner as it doesn’t come out as an accusation. So far most of the answers from the non-Lutherans have betrayed ignorance to some degree of what the Lutheran teaching is.
    I did enjoy the plug to the Westminster Confession. No self respecting Lutheran, no Lutheran aware of what the Lutheran church teaches, or what the gospel is, could commune at a church that expressed such a vile opinion concerning the Lord’s Supper, and sorry, knowing that is a persons confession makes it an act of love, given 1 Cor. 10 and eleven, not to allow that person communion at a Lutheran Altar.
    And Cincinnatus, I don’t know if you mean by Real Presence the Same as the Westminster Confession or not, but that is the problem with you using that term. I say this in hopes that we can clear up the confusion. Real presence is a very slippery term. Lutherans tend not to use it for a reason. It was the one weakness in an otherwise very helpful book concerning this matter, Close Communion conversations, which for those interested can be purchased at “www.lawgospel.com” proceeds go to missionaries in the field.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror@22: You’re quite right that “Real Presence” is itself a confounding term with myriad meanings. For the record, I do not subscribe to the view offered in the Westminster Confession.

    But, whether this is true in reality or not, say that my views on the Real Presence were essentially the same as the Lutheran view. Why can’t I commune?

    To address another point you made, I’m not attempting to be accusatory. This is a question that sincerely baffles me. “Baffles” may be a strong word, as it doesn’t keep me up nights. But I do not yet understand the Lutheran logic here, as it does not seem to be one of simple practicality: the only way we can certainly bar the most heretics from the altar is by closing the altar to all except confirmed Lutherans.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror@22: You’re quite right that “Real Presence” is itself a confounding term with myriad meanings. For the record, I do not subscribe to the view offered in the Westminster Confession.

    But, whether this is true in reality or not, say that my views on the Real Presence were essentially the same as the Lutheran view. Why can’t I commune?

    To address another point you made, I’m not attempting to be accusatory. This is a question that sincerely baffles me. “Baffles” may be a strong word, as it doesn’t keep me up nights. But I do not yet understand the Lutheran logic here, as it does not seem to be one of simple practicality: the only way we can certainly bar the most heretics from the altar is by closing the altar to all except confirmed Lutherans.

  • WebMonk

    FW – according to your view the closed communion is tied to the understanding of Grace. According to everyone else, it is tied to various other things.

    There’s no such thing as a single “Lutheran” view – there’s the LCMS view, the WELS view, the ALCC view, the ELCA view, the Tom Hering view, the FW view, the Larry view, the Pr. Peters view, the Dan Kempin view, and so on. A dozen different reasons, some contradictory, and yet all “Lutheran” as to why Lutherans won’t have Communion with brothers.

    Then look at all the various reasons given by all the tiny little splinters of Lutheran denominations for not communing with each other.

    The final result is that there is no deep and strong Biblical basis to which they all ascribe, but rather that everyone is splitting off into their own little splinter, determined to not have communion with those who disagree with them on a thousand different topics, and everyone convinced that their particular reason is the proper and necessary reason for splitting from fellowship with brothers and sisters.

    Be it Fellowship, or women’s roles, or Real Presence, or Grace vs Law, or homosexuality, or Office of the Ministry, or “total doctrinal agreement”, or, or, or, or …………

    The list goes on and on for pages. And you want to tell me that the reason for closed communion is because of some fundamental Biblical principle based on the principals of salvation by grace through faith and not of works.

    Bull shite.

    And that’s what saddens me.

  • WebMonk

    FW – according to your view the closed communion is tied to the understanding of Grace. According to everyone else, it is tied to various other things.

    There’s no such thing as a single “Lutheran” view – there’s the LCMS view, the WELS view, the ALCC view, the ELCA view, the Tom Hering view, the FW view, the Larry view, the Pr. Peters view, the Dan Kempin view, and so on. A dozen different reasons, some contradictory, and yet all “Lutheran” as to why Lutherans won’t have Communion with brothers.

    Then look at all the various reasons given by all the tiny little splinters of Lutheran denominations for not communing with each other.

    The final result is that there is no deep and strong Biblical basis to which they all ascribe, but rather that everyone is splitting off into their own little splinter, determined to not have communion with those who disagree with them on a thousand different topics, and everyone convinced that their particular reason is the proper and necessary reason for splitting from fellowship with brothers and sisters.

    Be it Fellowship, or women’s roles, or Real Presence, or Grace vs Law, or homosexuality, or Office of the Ministry, or “total doctrinal agreement”, or, or, or, or …………

    The list goes on and on for pages. And you want to tell me that the reason for closed communion is because of some fundamental Biblical principle based on the principals of salvation by grace through faith and not of works.

    Bull shite.

    And that’s what saddens me.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well then Cincinnatus, I suggest next time you think about attending an LCMS Congregation contact the pastor ahead of time, maybe show up even a half hour early or so, to find time to express your desire to commune, and explain what you believe. You might be surprised.
    Of course, you might then also have to explain why you aren’t a Lutheran and what grievances you have with us that prevent you from joining with us, even though your doctrinal positions, which you never really have explained, except to say they aren’t Lutheran and they aren’t reformed, and they presumably aren’t R.C., are so close to Lutheranism.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Well then Cincinnatus, I suggest next time you think about attending an LCMS Congregation contact the pastor ahead of time, maybe show up even a half hour early or so, to find time to express your desire to commune, and explain what you believe. You might be surprised.
    Of course, you might then also have to explain why you aren’t a Lutheran and what grievances you have with us that prevent you from joining with us, even though your doctrinal positions, which you never really have explained, except to say they aren’t Lutheran and they aren’t reformed, and they presumably aren’t R.C., are so close to Lutheranism.

  • WebMonk

    You guys (LCMS and WELS) split over whether or not kids could join Boy Scouts?!? I realize there were other issues, but ….! Joining Boy Scouts was one of the major issues over which you split?!?

    The things you find with Google! I’m sure there is more to the story, and someone can probably enlighten me as to why that was a major issue back then, but still! Boy Scouts?

  • WebMonk

    You guys (LCMS and WELS) split over whether or not kids could join Boy Scouts?!? I realize there were other issues, but ….! Joining Boy Scouts was one of the major issues over which you split?!?

    The things you find with Google! I’m sure there is more to the story, and someone can probably enlighten me as to why that was a major issue back then, but still! Boy Scouts?

  • Mary Jack

    I wish it were reassuring to people that church teachings & practices are founded on a large variety of Christian beliefs–that fellowship, sacramental teachings, ecclesial understandings, etc, are overlapping realities. To me, vast amounts of Scripture support Closed Communion, not just for churches of the Book of Concord but for all confessions and society. Love your neighbor as yourself implies this great overarching consistency for our actions. If we examine ourselves, we want others to examine themselves too! If we aspire to personalized pastoral care, we want that for othrs too! That churches practice closed communion implies an extra level of …something. Pride in some cases, sure, but I think conversations like this one are good, where we can look at the extra points. Christianity is not a religion of minimums but of bounties. And I think all of us can benefit from thinking in those terms: in what God gives, however complex, rather than what we give, as imperfect as we all are.

  • Mary Jack

    I wish it were reassuring to people that church teachings & practices are founded on a large variety of Christian beliefs–that fellowship, sacramental teachings, ecclesial understandings, etc, are overlapping realities. To me, vast amounts of Scripture support Closed Communion, not just for churches of the Book of Concord but for all confessions and society. Love your neighbor as yourself implies this great overarching consistency for our actions. If we examine ourselves, we want others to examine themselves too! If we aspire to personalized pastoral care, we want that for othrs too! That churches practice closed communion implies an extra level of …something. Pride in some cases, sure, but I think conversations like this one are good, where we can look at the extra points. Christianity is not a religion of minimums but of bounties. And I think all of us can benefit from thinking in those terms: in what God gives, however complex, rather than what we give, as imperfect as we all are.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror@25: I would respond thoroughly, but WebMonk seems to have covered the gamut of my complaints in his comment@24. I do not share his emotional involvement necessarily, but I am puzzled. There seems to be no coherent justification for the Missouri Synod’s practice. Each practitioner seems to have concocted his own ad hoc explanation. You yourself have shifted the terms of the debate. From an agreement on the sacraments you have advanced to something like “total doctrinal agreement” as a prerequisite for communion. So now the problem is simply that I am not a confirmed Lutheran? But since when did Lutherans make pretenses to housing the universal church?

    As Dr. Veith counsels, I do not wish to debate the practice itself. If Lutherans wish to practice closed communion, that is their prerogative. But I would like to understand why, and so far I don’t. In fact, you conclude by telling me to call up a local Lutheran pastor himself and interrogate him as to why I can’t commune there. Is this a tacit admission that there really is not concrete, coherent, denominational justification for the practice? Or does this imply that, as an Anglican, I actually could commune with Lutherans assuming I cleared my sacramental bona fides with the local pastor?

    In short, the whole thing is confusing to the outsider who might have, as all Christians should, an interest in the unity of the Church and the exalted status of the sacraments.

  • Cincinnatus

    Bror@25: I would respond thoroughly, but WebMonk seems to have covered the gamut of my complaints in his comment@24. I do not share his emotional involvement necessarily, but I am puzzled. There seems to be no coherent justification for the Missouri Synod’s practice. Each practitioner seems to have concocted his own ad hoc explanation. You yourself have shifted the terms of the debate. From an agreement on the sacraments you have advanced to something like “total doctrinal agreement” as a prerequisite for communion. So now the problem is simply that I am not a confirmed Lutheran? But since when did Lutherans make pretenses to housing the universal church?

    As Dr. Veith counsels, I do not wish to debate the practice itself. If Lutherans wish to practice closed communion, that is their prerogative. But I would like to understand why, and so far I don’t. In fact, you conclude by telling me to call up a local Lutheran pastor himself and interrogate him as to why I can’t commune there. Is this a tacit admission that there really is not concrete, coherent, denominational justification for the practice? Or does this imply that, as an Anglican, I actually could commune with Lutherans assuming I cleared my sacramental bona fides with the local pastor?

    In short, the whole thing is confusing to the outsider who might have, as all Christians should, an interest in the unity of the Church and the exalted status of the sacraments.

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk, you can remove me from your list @ 24. I’m Lutheran because I started going to an LCMS church that allowed anyone to take Communion – if they agreed with a short doctrinal statement about the Supper, printed in the worship handout. Both I and the friends I encouraged to attend with me were all confirmed within a year. I don’t think it would have turned out that way if the church’s practice had been stricter. And no, the senior pastor (R.I.P.) wasn’t a liberal. On every other issue – social, political, theological – he was the most conservative person who ever lived (maddeningly so).

  • Tom Hering

    WebMonk, you can remove me from your list @ 24. I’m Lutheran because I started going to an LCMS church that allowed anyone to take Communion – if they agreed with a short doctrinal statement about the Supper, printed in the worship handout. Both I and the friends I encouraged to attend with me were all confirmed within a year. I don’t think it would have turned out that way if the church’s practice had been stricter. And no, the senior pastor (R.I.P.) wasn’t a liberal. On every other issue – social, political, theological – he was the most conservative person who ever lived (maddeningly so).

  • Cincinnatus

    For what it’s worth, the arrangement Tom Hering describes @29 seems quite sensible. The logic is nearly self-evident, and it is logic applied in virtually all except the most heretical of churches (in Anglican churches, for instance, one must merely profess to be a baptized Christian and a subscriber to the historic creeds; no forms to sign). But, again, thus far no universal justification for utterly closed communion has been forthcoming…

  • Cincinnatus

    For what it’s worth, the arrangement Tom Hering describes @29 seems quite sensible. The logic is nearly self-evident, and it is logic applied in virtually all except the most heretical of churches (in Anglican churches, for instance, one must merely profess to be a baptized Christian and a subscriber to the historic creeds; no forms to sign). But, again, thus far no universal justification for utterly closed communion has been forthcoming…

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, I should clarify. Even after reading the short doctrinal statement, I still wasn’t comfortable going up to receive Communion, because I didn’t understand everything in the statement (it was “packed”). So I asked the senior pastor about it, and he said (I paraphrase), “If you’re not opposed to anything in the statement, take Communion. As to your understanding, we’ll get you there.”

  • Tom Hering

    Cincinnatus, I should clarify. Even after reading the short doctrinal statement, I still wasn’t comfortable going up to receive Communion, because I didn’t understand everything in the statement (it was “packed”). So I asked the senior pastor about it, and he said (I paraphrase), “If you’re not opposed to anything in the statement, take Communion. As to your understanding, we’ll get you there.”

  • Jon

    @31 TomH, “If you not opposed…”
    hat’s not a bad way to put it. I’m not Lutheran, but I can see the logic in a denomination refusing to commune those who reject [as opposed to not understand] the denomination’s belief about communion. At that point, it seems to me, the issues to debate are (1) which belief is correct, and (2) why do bibically based denominations differ? But those are separate questions from a denomination’s practice of withholding communion from those who plainly reject what the denomination believes about it.

  • Jon

    @31 TomH, “If you not opposed…”
    hat’s not a bad way to put it. I’m not Lutheran, but I can see the logic in a denomination refusing to commune those who reject [as opposed to not understand] the denomination’s belief about communion. At that point, it seems to me, the issues to debate are (1) which belief is correct, and (2) why do bibically based denominations differ? But those are separate questions from a denomination’s practice of withholding communion from those who plainly reject what the denomination believes about it.

  • DonS

    I have attended Roman Catholic funeral and wedding services, and have not taken communion. I was not offended by that, nor am I offended by the Lutheran practice of closed communion. As has been said above, it is your prerogative to conduct your church services in whatever manner you wish.

    There have been some excellent points above by both Webmonk and Cincinnatus, regarding the difference between ensuring doctrinal understanding, before partaking, and getting enmeshed in denominational trivia. The many Lutheran splinters, and the fact that many won’t cross-commune, seem to indicate that there is more going with the practice of closed communion than mere doctrinal comity. Tom Hering’s church, as well as Steve Martin’s church, seem to have practices which strike a reasonable balance.

    When Christ died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn, signifying that no longer was a human priest required between the people and God. I Cor. 11 describes a practice of self-examination in order to ensure one qualifies to partake in communion. I see the role of a human pastor as an instructor, not a policeman.

  • DonS

    I have attended Roman Catholic funeral and wedding services, and have not taken communion. I was not offended by that, nor am I offended by the Lutheran practice of closed communion. As has been said above, it is your prerogative to conduct your church services in whatever manner you wish.

    There have been some excellent points above by both Webmonk and Cincinnatus, regarding the difference between ensuring doctrinal understanding, before partaking, and getting enmeshed in denominational trivia. The many Lutheran splinters, and the fact that many won’t cross-commune, seem to indicate that there is more going with the practice of closed communion than mere doctrinal comity. Tom Hering’s church, as well as Steve Martin’s church, seem to have practices which strike a reasonable balance.

    When Christ died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn, signifying that no longer was a human priest required between the people and God. I Cor. 11 describes a practice of self-examination in order to ensure one qualifies to partake in communion. I see the role of a human pastor as an instructor, not a policeman.

  • kenneth

    I have just begun to read the Westminster Confession and find it theologically, absolutely refreshing. Same doctrine as lutheran lcms. as far as I know.

    Why a lutheran would abstain from communing with presbyterian or reformed if they are in agreement on all points confession and the meaning of baptism is totally incomprehesible to me. Theoretical differences might be discussed and if no obstacles arise, communing should be done.

    What is the Orthodox position on communion?

  • kenneth

    I have just begun to read the Westminster Confession and find it theologically, absolutely refreshing. Same doctrine as lutheran lcms. as far as I know.

    Why a lutheran would abstain from communing with presbyterian or reformed if they are in agreement on all points confession and the meaning of baptism is totally incomprehesible to me. Theoretical differences might be discussed and if no obstacles arise, communing should be done.

    What is the Orthodox position on communion?

  • WebMonk

    Uh oh kenneth! LCMS having the same doctrine as the WC?!?! Put on your bulletproof vest! The bullets are gonna fly!! :-D

  • WebMonk

    Uh oh kenneth! LCMS having the same doctrine as the WC?!?! Put on your bulletproof vest! The bullets are gonna fly!! :-D

  • Lou

    Dan Kempin,
    I’d be interested in what the “important and dangerous differences” are between reformed and/or Presbyterians (PCA type) and Lutherans that would bar mutual participation in a public act of unity? Sorry, I’ve not observed any “important and dangerous differences” as you seem to have. What are they then?

  • Lou

    Dan Kempin,
    I’d be interested in what the “important and dangerous differences” are between reformed and/or Presbyterians (PCA type) and Lutherans that would bar mutual participation in a public act of unity? Sorry, I’ve not observed any “important and dangerous differences” as you seem to have. What are they then?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Cincinnatus,
    See the thing is the LCMS position is not one that is “closed” but close, allowing pastors to make exceptions to the rule so to speak. The rule is there for a reason, it needs to be there. But there also needs be the freedom to make exceptions etc. What we will not do is practice open communion. I would be interested to hear more from tom, and to see this “packed” statement.
    As for Kenneth, you scare me, either you do not understand the Lutheran position, or you have no clue as to what the Westminster confession is saying. It is a direct denial of Luther’s small catechism by the way.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Cincinnatus,
    See the thing is the LCMS position is not one that is “closed” but close, allowing pastors to make exceptions to the rule so to speak. The rule is there for a reason, it needs to be there. But there also needs be the freedom to make exceptions etc. What we will not do is practice open communion. I would be interested to hear more from tom, and to see this “packed” statement.
    As for Kenneth, you scare me, either you do not understand the Lutheran position, or you have no clue as to what the Westminster confession is saying. It is a direct denial of Luther’s small catechism by the way.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, Tom H, I just listed people who had commented on this post who were Lutheran. I didn’t do any investigation as to whether or not those people held to a closed communion. Substitute Bror in for your name then. :-)

    However, as to my larger point, I think your experience adds to the larger picture I was expressing – there are a multitude of different reasons which many Lutherans use as the basis of closed communion, AND there are lots of Lutherans who don’t do closed communion at all.

    What’s the resulting picture? The Lutheran practice of closed communion isn’t fundamentally based on a Biblical foundation, but rather a wide variety of sometimes conflicting reasons, some with a variety of different doctrines at their core, and others with what appears to be nothing more than a desire to separate from others.

  • WebMonk

    Sorry, Tom H, I just listed people who had commented on this post who were Lutheran. I didn’t do any investigation as to whether or not those people held to a closed communion. Substitute Bror in for your name then. :-)

    However, as to my larger point, I think your experience adds to the larger picture I was expressing – there are a multitude of different reasons which many Lutherans use as the basis of closed communion, AND there are lots of Lutherans who don’t do closed communion at all.

    What’s the resulting picture? The Lutheran practice of closed communion isn’t fundamentally based on a Biblical foundation, but rather a wide variety of sometimes conflicting reasons, some with a variety of different doctrines at their core, and others with what appears to be nothing more than a desire to separate from others.

  • kenneth

    Thanks be to God as genesian say. As St Paul said, systematically in his theology , Paraphrasing, “though we be killed we go to a better place with the Lord”. So come what bullets may!

  • kenneth

    Thanks be to God as genesian say. As St Paul said, systematically in his theology , Paraphrasing, “though we be killed we go to a better place with the Lord”. So come what bullets may!

  • fws

    webmonk and cincinatus

    I have tried to outline the lutheran position from the Lutheran Confessions. I doubt that you will see a single lutheran in either the LCMS or ELCA disagree with this.

    And you should note that the practice in Tom Herring’s church is completely consonant with every single thing I wrote. Tom’s church is faithfully practicing closed communion I am saying while avoiding drifing into legalism.

    So ponder that. We Lutherans are not so splintered as you at first might think and are suggesting.

    I will be most surprised if Steve Martin or any other ELCA background Lutheran that takes our confessions seriously would in any way disagree with what I wrote. why not? it is what the Lutheran Confessions clearly teach!

    Further, I would love to hear from you westminster confessions guys have to say about my saying that the lord supper is about the command and order of christ and that obeying that command is why christians are to commune.

  • fws

    webmonk and cincinatus

    I have tried to outline the lutheran position from the Lutheran Confessions. I doubt that you will see a single lutheran in either the LCMS or ELCA disagree with this.

    And you should note that the practice in Tom Herring’s church is completely consonant with every single thing I wrote. Tom’s church is faithfully practicing closed communion I am saying while avoiding drifing into legalism.

    So ponder that. We Lutherans are not so splintered as you at first might think and are suggesting.

    I will be most surprised if Steve Martin or any other ELCA background Lutheran that takes our confessions seriously would in any way disagree with what I wrote. why not? it is what the Lutheran Confessions clearly teach!

    Further, I would love to hear from you westminster confessions guys have to say about my saying that the lord supper is about the command and order of christ and that obeying that command is why christians are to commune.

  • Dan Kempin

    Lou, #36

    Good question and a chance for clarification. First, understand that the lutheran perspective on fellowship is fairly sophisticated, though it may come across as quarrelsome or petty. We speak of two levels, as it were. The first is “unity,” which we have, and publicly affirm, with other Christian denominations. Thus my own reference to the sacrament as an “act of unity” was improper, according to my own terminology. We desire to be unified with all other Christians in every way possible, and we have unity at the Lord’s table, if not yet at the same altar.

    There are nevertheless important doctrinal differences that have not been resolved–I am keeping it general for the moment rather than take on the specifics of one denomination or another–and those differences are important. We have Christian unity with a denomination with whom we may have a serious disagreement, but we do not thereby say that the difference does not matter. We therefore have another term that we use for full doctrinal agreement: “Concordia.” I therefore, to use my own terminology properly, ought to have said, “this public act of concordia.”

    In other words, to move to the more convoluted, restrictive fellowship is not a repudiation of our Christian unity, but a promotion of our desire for true concordia.

    Again, in denying altar fellowship to a fellow Christian (of another denomination), we are not denying that they are worthy to receive the sacrament, for we trust that the fellow Christian is communing at the Lord’s table in their own congregation. We are rather acknowledging that full fellowship does not yet exist. This is indeed hard and awkward and should, I hope, move us to seek for resolution rather than to settle for solidifying our difference.

  • Dan Kempin

    Lou, #36

    Good question and a chance for clarification. First, understand that the lutheran perspective on fellowship is fairly sophisticated, though it may come across as quarrelsome or petty. We speak of two levels, as it were. The first is “unity,” which we have, and publicly affirm, with other Christian denominations. Thus my own reference to the sacrament as an “act of unity” was improper, according to my own terminology. We desire to be unified with all other Christians in every way possible, and we have unity at the Lord’s table, if not yet at the same altar.

    There are nevertheless important doctrinal differences that have not been resolved–I am keeping it general for the moment rather than take on the specifics of one denomination or another–and those differences are important. We have Christian unity with a denomination with whom we may have a serious disagreement, but we do not thereby say that the difference does not matter. We therefore have another term that we use for full doctrinal agreement: “Concordia.” I therefore, to use my own terminology properly, ought to have said, “this public act of concordia.”

    In other words, to move to the more convoluted, restrictive fellowship is not a repudiation of our Christian unity, but a promotion of our desire for true concordia.

    Again, in denying altar fellowship to a fellow Christian (of another denomination), we are not denying that they are worthy to receive the sacrament, for we trust that the fellow Christian is communing at the Lord’s table in their own congregation. We are rather acknowledging that full fellowship does not yet exist. This is indeed hard and awkward and should, I hope, move us to seek for resolution rather than to settle for solidifying our difference.

  • larry

    Lou brings up the issue of “Okay, so the bar to taking communion has to do with the differences between our understandings of the “real presence” of Christ, however nuanced they may or may not be.” With the implication that’s not a big deal. That has ALWAYS been the reformed response. As Sasse points out in Marburg, and many Lutherans miss this today too, the issue was not “real presence” but that the Christ spoke are taken to believe exactly without interpretation what they actually say. At issue Sasse points out is not just the Sacrament but the Word of God. One yeast of heresy begets another. Thus, here one sees that the issue is in reality not just sacrament but true sola scriptura, and linked directly and immediately to that true sola fide, and to that sola gratia, and to that sola deo Gloria. At length what we find out is that the “Reformed” and the Lutheran reformed do not agree on any of these.

    The linkage of the sacrament is that big of an issue, its not tangential and a mere matter of nuance, but at root the Word of God. Its not as if the words are hard, difficult to understand, and the issue is not, never has been a matter of nuance of interpretation but belief versus unbelief, “do you believe what the words actually say”.

    Then this gets into what is the actual Orthodox church, true confessing, versus heterodox of falsely confessing. This is where it often hurts the most, because the issue, for example in Corinth was that it was a true confessing church albeit struggling as do any church. But in the NT heterodox churches cannot be read into the text as true confessing churches, they are the schismatics, Gnostics, Nicolatians. Here the Reformed churches are “akin”, they are heterodox. Paul’s not writing to heterodoxy but to orthodoxy. So the sacrament would not be given within them, the Apostle’s would not commune with them, etc…

    Thus, the more error and heresy allowed, the broader the definition of “church” gets, to the point that its so broad, like today, that baptist commune with PCA and so forth, in spite of their confessions of faith to the contrary (which makes one wonder, what point is there confessions). PCA, when I belonged, we allowed communion of anyone including baptist and as members in spite of the WCF calling the refusal to baptize one’s infants a great sin, not just any sin, but a great sin. Vice versa, when I was a baptist some, although some still fence, would allow person from other denominations baptized as infants to commune, in spite of their clear confession of faith in the SB F&M and LBCF that only the baptized can commune, it’s a requirement. And that means believers immersion only baptism. Thus, in such they commune unbaptized, from their confessional stance, (baptized as infants and not by immersion) persons.

    In principle if heterodoxies confessions actually meant something they actually confessed they’d call other confessions heterodoxy and thus false (even Lutheran from their confessional stance). That’s the only position one can take with the Word of God. If it is in YOUR confession it must be an article of faith, and if an article of faith it MUST be rooted ALONE in the Word of God and the Word of God cannot be bipolar or flimsy. But if you don’t really adhere to your confession, swing wide you communion doors (again in principle for starters), swing wide what you call “orthodox”, then why is it in your confession of faith. If its not an article of faith and thus rooted firmly in the Word alone, for only the Word of God can issue articles of faith and you yet don’t adhere to it – then it must not be in your confession of FAITH. Thus, today heterodoxy is sleighing even its own confession of faith, de facto tearing and ripping whole pages from its confessions.

    But this is what heterodoxy does, since its confessions are not firmly rooted in the Word of God, thus the issue has always been the Word and the solas. Luther at Wittenberg is the same Luther at Marburg. Sasse points out that Luther almost prophetically foresaw this just after Zwingli that due to the disconnect with the Word of God that it would continue to fester and cause a razing throughout the country side so that at length the Word of God would over time increasingly become “nothing” and “uncertain”. And thus it is and continues today among the heterodoxies, variously and increasingly is lost is Creation (an article of faith), baptism, the sacrament of the alter, confession/absolution, the trinity, end times, what the church is, the two natures, the resurrection, etc… One heresy feeds and multiplies many heresies until the Word of God is reduced to metaphor and uncertainty whereby no one knows for certain if they are saved as if Christ never came. When the sacraments as actual means of Grace (ala Lutheran confessions) are reduced (ala reformed and baptist confessions) one of the first heresies is a complete reduction in the Law as the real hammer of God. You have to in order to invent an assurance on works. Then you are not really living daily in repentance but a fake repentance over fake sins, not real sins. And it goes on and on and on.

    Even heterodoxy within its minimal retained elements of some orthodoxy, as admitted here, has experienced this. The PCA in order to maintain its further dive into heresy and open the communion doors wider, throws down its confession on infant baptism. Baptist are doing the same thing is some circles. Thus, even within its heterodox walls, further and deeper and broader heterodoxy is allowed in over time.

    The first step in denying the Word of God is not overtly saying “this is wrong”, but the very principle of not understanding that orthodoxy is orthodoxy and heterodoxy cannot in any sense be allowed in. Everywhere in Scripture old and new testament, explicitly authorizes the Christian to “flee from them”. False teaching, teachers, etc… are no where in Scripture given latitude, quite the opposite. And if one is a pastor, theologian, etc…within heterodoxy one must realize the very real spiritual danger one is in. And the resistance to that in principle is not at unlike the rank heathen who resist and harden their hearts against the law, their consciences either accusing or excusing them. Same thing when heterodoxy is pointed out.

    As Sasse also points out the serious Reformed, Baptist, Methodist, RC and Lutheran that so take the Word of God seriously and realize there is no acceptance of “nuance” of interpretation are actually closer together in principle than those that do not. In a way its better to be dead wrong but believe it to be orthodox, than it is to be half right and adhere to a heterodoxy principle of “nuance”. Put another way a Baptist who holds the line on his confession and calls us Lutheran’s heretics is better off, than Baptist who does not. In fact that shocked the Lutherans at Marburg and was the precipitating event that caused Luther to not offer Zwingli the right hand of fellowship and called of a “different spirit” than ours, his political expediency showed Luther the Word of God for him was not sola Scriptura.

  • larry

    Lou brings up the issue of “Okay, so the bar to taking communion has to do with the differences between our understandings of the “real presence” of Christ, however nuanced they may or may not be.” With the implication that’s not a big deal. That has ALWAYS been the reformed response. As Sasse points out in Marburg, and many Lutherans miss this today too, the issue was not “real presence” but that the Christ spoke are taken to believe exactly without interpretation what they actually say. At issue Sasse points out is not just the Sacrament but the Word of God. One yeast of heresy begets another. Thus, here one sees that the issue is in reality not just sacrament but true sola scriptura, and linked directly and immediately to that true sola fide, and to that sola gratia, and to that sola deo Gloria. At length what we find out is that the “Reformed” and the Lutheran reformed do not agree on any of these.

    The linkage of the sacrament is that big of an issue, its not tangential and a mere matter of nuance, but at root the Word of God. Its not as if the words are hard, difficult to understand, and the issue is not, never has been a matter of nuance of interpretation but belief versus unbelief, “do you believe what the words actually say”.

    Then this gets into what is the actual Orthodox church, true confessing, versus heterodox of falsely confessing. This is where it often hurts the most, because the issue, for example in Corinth was that it was a true confessing church albeit struggling as do any church. But in the NT heterodox churches cannot be read into the text as true confessing churches, they are the schismatics, Gnostics, Nicolatians. Here the Reformed churches are “akin”, they are heterodox. Paul’s not writing to heterodoxy but to orthodoxy. So the sacrament would not be given within them, the Apostle’s would not commune with them, etc…

    Thus, the more error and heresy allowed, the broader the definition of “church” gets, to the point that its so broad, like today, that baptist commune with PCA and so forth, in spite of their confessions of faith to the contrary (which makes one wonder, what point is there confessions). PCA, when I belonged, we allowed communion of anyone including baptist and as members in spite of the WCF calling the refusal to baptize one’s infants a great sin, not just any sin, but a great sin. Vice versa, when I was a baptist some, although some still fence, would allow person from other denominations baptized as infants to commune, in spite of their clear confession of faith in the SB F&M and LBCF that only the baptized can commune, it’s a requirement. And that means believers immersion only baptism. Thus, in such they commune unbaptized, from their confessional stance, (baptized as infants and not by immersion) persons.

    In principle if heterodoxies confessions actually meant something they actually confessed they’d call other confessions heterodoxy and thus false (even Lutheran from their confessional stance). That’s the only position one can take with the Word of God. If it is in YOUR confession it must be an article of faith, and if an article of faith it MUST be rooted ALONE in the Word of God and the Word of God cannot be bipolar or flimsy. But if you don’t really adhere to your confession, swing wide you communion doors (again in principle for starters), swing wide what you call “orthodox”, then why is it in your confession of faith. If its not an article of faith and thus rooted firmly in the Word alone, for only the Word of God can issue articles of faith and you yet don’t adhere to it – then it must not be in your confession of FAITH. Thus, today heterodoxy is sleighing even its own confession of faith, de facto tearing and ripping whole pages from its confessions.

    But this is what heterodoxy does, since its confessions are not firmly rooted in the Word of God, thus the issue has always been the Word and the solas. Luther at Wittenberg is the same Luther at Marburg. Sasse points out that Luther almost prophetically foresaw this just after Zwingli that due to the disconnect with the Word of God that it would continue to fester and cause a razing throughout the country side so that at length the Word of God would over time increasingly become “nothing” and “uncertain”. And thus it is and continues today among the heterodoxies, variously and increasingly is lost is Creation (an article of faith), baptism, the sacrament of the alter, confession/absolution, the trinity, end times, what the church is, the two natures, the resurrection, etc… One heresy feeds and multiplies many heresies until the Word of God is reduced to metaphor and uncertainty whereby no one knows for certain if they are saved as if Christ never came. When the sacraments as actual means of Grace (ala Lutheran confessions) are reduced (ala reformed and baptist confessions) one of the first heresies is a complete reduction in the Law as the real hammer of God. You have to in order to invent an assurance on works. Then you are not really living daily in repentance but a fake repentance over fake sins, not real sins. And it goes on and on and on.

    Even heterodoxy within its minimal retained elements of some orthodoxy, as admitted here, has experienced this. The PCA in order to maintain its further dive into heresy and open the communion doors wider, throws down its confession on infant baptism. Baptist are doing the same thing is some circles. Thus, even within its heterodox walls, further and deeper and broader heterodoxy is allowed in over time.

    The first step in denying the Word of God is not overtly saying “this is wrong”, but the very principle of not understanding that orthodoxy is orthodoxy and heterodoxy cannot in any sense be allowed in. Everywhere in Scripture old and new testament, explicitly authorizes the Christian to “flee from them”. False teaching, teachers, etc… are no where in Scripture given latitude, quite the opposite. And if one is a pastor, theologian, etc…within heterodoxy one must realize the very real spiritual danger one is in. And the resistance to that in principle is not at unlike the rank heathen who resist and harden their hearts against the law, their consciences either accusing or excusing them. Same thing when heterodoxy is pointed out.

    As Sasse also points out the serious Reformed, Baptist, Methodist, RC and Lutheran that so take the Word of God seriously and realize there is no acceptance of “nuance” of interpretation are actually closer together in principle than those that do not. In a way its better to be dead wrong but believe it to be orthodox, than it is to be half right and adhere to a heterodoxy principle of “nuance”. Put another way a Baptist who holds the line on his confession and calls us Lutheran’s heretics is better off, than Baptist who does not. In fact that shocked the Lutherans at Marburg and was the precipitating event that caused Luther to not offer Zwingli the right hand of fellowship and called of a “different spirit” than ours, his political expediency showed Luther the Word of God for him was not sola Scriptura.

  • Abby

    I actually attend Eastern Orthodox services occasionally because I used to be a member of an EO church. Many years ago, when I joined, the Priest asked me what church I was from. I told him, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He was delighted and said, “No problem. We’re sister churches!” There was no adult teaching, no catechism. I was only charismated and was then considered a member.

    My problem came when my baby daughter was given Holy Communion at her baptism. And from then on was eligible to take Holy Communion—there is no confirmation. (I had attended Lutheran school during my childhood and had been taught “Lutheranism” very well.) I wouldn’t allow her to commune again because of our teaching of “examination of self” so as not to commune unworthily. Eventually I returned to the LCMS.

    During Holy Week I like to attend the service of “Holy Oil” at the Orthodox church. The readings of the liturgy are very beautiful and moving. They consider the Holy Oil to be a sacrament as well, so non-members cannot be anointed. My friend kept urging me to go up for anointing. I kept telling her I couldn’t. She wouldn’t believe me. So I showed her in the book the statement concerning non-members. She said if I hadn’t shown her that she never would have believed it.

    When I attend, I do feel sad that I cannot take Holy Communion or be anointed with the oil. I sat there thinking how Jesus gave forgiveness of sins to people on the street wherever He went. And I think of the sinful woman of Luke 7. Aren’t the Sacraments to give forgiveness of sins?

    I know I’m an untrained laywoman, and don’t have knowledge of some of the “reasons” why we can’t be together, but yes, I still am sad. Because I know what I believe in my heart. And I do feel close to the Orthodox because I know what they believe and their high view of the Sacraments. (I will not give up the doctrines of Justificaton by faith alone and the “Sola Scriptura.”) I would never think of taking communion where the Real Presence is not believed.

    I somehow have trouble believing that people who have a low view of Jesus would want to take Communion anyway. Eliminating themselves, so to speak. I’ve been in enough churches to know that even if you’re a member, the Pastor or Priest does not know all that you have going on in your life outside of church. In the Orthodox church you are supposed to take confession before communing. (Confession is supposed to be mandatory, but most do not do it.) I know a member who told me she went to do this and told the Priest she had nothing to confess—and then took communion. And he did not withhold it from her. Another female member of this church takes communion (once in a while she will call the Priest to give it to her either at her home or at his office) who seeks out men on the internet, lets them live with her with no intention of marriage, and goes to casinos regularly and virtually has no life in the church (she never attends).

    To say the least, it is very confusing. I do know that I appreciate being in a church who does have doctrines and abides by them on a corporate basis. But, from what I “see,” everyone really is all over the board in following these and a lot of the differences depend on who the individual Pastor or Priest is. I have been given Communion (long ago) under different priests in the Orthodox church. And they knew who I was.

    For a long time now, because of the immense confusion, I do not seek Communion except in my church.

  • Abby

    I actually attend Eastern Orthodox services occasionally because I used to be a member of an EO church. Many years ago, when I joined, the Priest asked me what church I was from. I told him, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. He was delighted and said, “No problem. We’re sister churches!” There was no adult teaching, no catechism. I was only charismated and was then considered a member.

    My problem came when my baby daughter was given Holy Communion at her baptism. And from then on was eligible to take Holy Communion—there is no confirmation. (I had attended Lutheran school during my childhood and had been taught “Lutheranism” very well.) I wouldn’t allow her to commune again because of our teaching of “examination of self” so as not to commune unworthily. Eventually I returned to the LCMS.

    During Holy Week I like to attend the service of “Holy Oil” at the Orthodox church. The readings of the liturgy are very beautiful and moving. They consider the Holy Oil to be a sacrament as well, so non-members cannot be anointed. My friend kept urging me to go up for anointing. I kept telling her I couldn’t. She wouldn’t believe me. So I showed her in the book the statement concerning non-members. She said if I hadn’t shown her that she never would have believed it.

    When I attend, I do feel sad that I cannot take Holy Communion or be anointed with the oil. I sat there thinking how Jesus gave forgiveness of sins to people on the street wherever He went. And I think of the sinful woman of Luke 7. Aren’t the Sacraments to give forgiveness of sins?

    I know I’m an untrained laywoman, and don’t have knowledge of some of the “reasons” why we can’t be together, but yes, I still am sad. Because I know what I believe in my heart. And I do feel close to the Orthodox because I know what they believe and their high view of the Sacraments. (I will not give up the doctrines of Justificaton by faith alone and the “Sola Scriptura.”) I would never think of taking communion where the Real Presence is not believed.

    I somehow have trouble believing that people who have a low view of Jesus would want to take Communion anyway. Eliminating themselves, so to speak. I’ve been in enough churches to know that even if you’re a member, the Pastor or Priest does not know all that you have going on in your life outside of church. In the Orthodox church you are supposed to take confession before communing. (Confession is supposed to be mandatory, but most do not do it.) I know a member who told me she went to do this and told the Priest she had nothing to confess—and then took communion. And he did not withhold it from her. Another female member of this church takes communion (once in a while she will call the Priest to give it to her either at her home or at his office) who seeks out men on the internet, lets them live with her with no intention of marriage, and goes to casinos regularly and virtually has no life in the church (she never attends).

    To say the least, it is very confusing. I do know that I appreciate being in a church who does have doctrines and abides by them on a corporate basis. But, from what I “see,” everyone really is all over the board in following these and a lot of the differences depend on who the individual Pastor or Priest is. I have been given Communion (long ago) under different priests in the Orthodox church. And they knew who I was.

    For a long time now, because of the immense confusion, I do not seek Communion except in my church.

  • –helen

    WebMonk September 14, 2011 at 11:43 am
    You guys (LCMS and WELS) split over whether or not kids could join Boy Scouts?!? I realize there were other issues, but ….! Joining Boy Scouts was one of the major issues over which you split?!?

    Actually, I think WELS split over LCMS entering into fellowship with the ALC (which was heading toward ELCA, so WELS was right to be concerned). There are differences on the definition of the Office of the Ministry, as well, somewhat off topic here.

    Boy Scouts, yes, WELS has a mirror organization as a substitute. Some LCMS people can still be heard to denounce the Boy Scouts (BSA requires members to believe in “God”, otherwise undefined.) Meanwhile other LCMS congregations solve the problem by sponsoring their own troops. We are LCMS; my sons and grandsons are Eagle Scouts. My eldest son, while he lived, was an LCMS Pastor and his son is a Vicar, preparing for the ministry this year.
    Back to the topic of the day!

  • –helen

    WebMonk September 14, 2011 at 11:43 am
    You guys (LCMS and WELS) split over whether or not kids could join Boy Scouts?!? I realize there were other issues, but ….! Joining Boy Scouts was one of the major issues over which you split?!?

    Actually, I think WELS split over LCMS entering into fellowship with the ALC (which was heading toward ELCA, so WELS was right to be concerned). There are differences on the definition of the Office of the Ministry, as well, somewhat off topic here.

    Boy Scouts, yes, WELS has a mirror organization as a substitute. Some LCMS people can still be heard to denounce the Boy Scouts (BSA requires members to believe in “God”, otherwise undefined.) Meanwhile other LCMS congregations solve the problem by sponsoring their own troops. We are LCMS; my sons and grandsons are Eagle Scouts. My eldest son, while he lived, was an LCMS Pastor and his son is a Vicar, preparing for the ministry this year.
    Back to the topic of the day!

  • –helen

    Larry @ 42,

    Thanks for that! I could wish that some of our “loving” “inclusive” LCMS Pastors understood what you just wrote!

  • –helen

    Larry @ 42,

    Thanks for that! I could wish that some of our “loving” “inclusive” LCMS Pastors understood what you just wrote!

  • WebMonk

    Thanks, Helen. I knew there were other items, and I didn’t mean to suggest the Boy Scouts were the only factor for the split; just, the fact that membership in the Boy Scouts was sufficiently significant to be mentioned with the other issues is …. wow.

    I think the differences causing the split are sort of on-topic (related anyway) since they were reasons for closing Communion to each other. I can’t remember which source had mentioned the Boy Scouts thing, but I think the role of women in ministry was another item on par with the Boy Scouts issue. (though maybe that topic was part of a different split).

  • WebMonk

    Thanks, Helen. I knew there were other items, and I didn’t mean to suggest the Boy Scouts were the only factor for the split; just, the fact that membership in the Boy Scouts was sufficiently significant to be mentioned with the other issues is …. wow.

    I think the differences causing the split are sort of on-topic (related anyway) since they were reasons for closing Communion to each other. I can’t remember which source had mentioned the Boy Scouts thing, but I think the role of women in ministry was another item on par with the Boy Scouts issue. (though maybe that topic was part of a different split).

  • Tom Hering

    Bror, I dug through my old files, hoping to find a worship handout from 1997. No luck. But I do remember the statement concerning Communion included, “We believe the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are truly present in, with, and under the consecrated bread and wine.” (Probably not the precise wording.) Does that sound “packed” to you? It did to Evangelical me at the time.

    Currently, on my church’s website, the “Beliefs” section states:

    The Lord’s Supper…
    Matthew 26:26-28 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ ”
    1 Cor. 10:16 “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”
    1 Cor. 11:26-29 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

  • Tom Hering

    Bror, I dug through my old files, hoping to find a worship handout from 1997. No luck. But I do remember the statement concerning Communion included, “We believe the body and blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ are truly present in, with, and under the consecrated bread and wine.” (Probably not the precise wording.) Does that sound “packed” to you? It did to Evangelical me at the time.

    Currently, on my church’s website, the “Beliefs” section states:

    The Lord’s Supper…
    Matthew 26:26-28 “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ ”
    1 Cor. 10:16 “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?”
    1 Cor. 11:26-29 “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

  • –helen

    If you look at it from the WELS POV, Webmonk, BSA is a syncretistic organization; that is, it could conduct religious services for mixed groups. In that, they have a point.
    (However, it’s not the Army; you are not required to attend and BSA would never hold a communion service.)
    When I advised an Explorer unit (coed, 14-21) sponsored by a Catholic church, we were asked to be back for 6 p.m. Mass, so the RC members could go if they desired. We did not have a group religious exercise on our trips.

  • –helen

    If you look at it from the WELS POV, Webmonk, BSA is a syncretistic organization; that is, it could conduct religious services for mixed groups. In that, they have a point.
    (However, it’s not the Army; you are not required to attend and BSA would never hold a communion service.)
    When I advised an Explorer unit (coed, 14-21) sponsored by a Catholic church, we were asked to be back for 6 p.m. Mass, so the RC members could go if they desired. We did not have a group religious exercise on our trips.

  • http://princetonlutherans.com jgernander

    In the confessional Lutheran church, it is *both* a Lord’s Supper issue and a Fellowship issue. But I like to explain that the answer is not a “no” as much as it is a “not yet.” We believe that if other Christians avail themselves of the opportunity to be fully and correctly instructed, they will have the same faith; it is only waiting to come out, when you are dealing with a person who loves the Scripture and wants his/her faith to be informed by it alone. I invite them to speak with me after the service and explore this avenue.

    In a Bible class I did a few years ago, we looked at the Christian Reformed Church doctrine and practice (as well as churches of other confessions in our town). I complimented the local CR church for including the actual Q and A from the Heidelberg Catechism in their instruction materials. (Would that more Lutheran churches made use of Luther’s Catechism in a similar way in their instruction materials!) The pertinent section:

    “As surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me …
    “Q: What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink His poured out blood? A: It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body. And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh …”

    In our Bible study, I then asked two questions:
    1. Where does this say Jesus *is* in the Lord’s Supper? (Not “was” but “is.” The “He in heaven and we on earth” were the words that made the difference crystal clear to our people.)
    2. What is missing or different from this teaching and practice of the Lord’s Supper? (This led the Bible class back into the words of Luther’s Catechism — very stark and obvious differences.)

    Pastor Jerry Gernander
    Bethany Lutheran Church (ELS), Princeton MN

  • http://princetonlutherans.com jgernander

    In the confessional Lutheran church, it is *both* a Lord’s Supper issue and a Fellowship issue. But I like to explain that the answer is not a “no” as much as it is a “not yet.” We believe that if other Christians avail themselves of the opportunity to be fully and correctly instructed, they will have the same faith; it is only waiting to come out, when you are dealing with a person who loves the Scripture and wants his/her faith to be informed by it alone. I invite them to speak with me after the service and explore this avenue.

    In a Bible class I did a few years ago, we looked at the Christian Reformed Church doctrine and practice (as well as churches of other confessions in our town). I complimented the local CR church for including the actual Q and A from the Heidelberg Catechism in their instruction materials. (Would that more Lutheran churches made use of Luther’s Catechism in a similar way in their instruction materials!) The pertinent section:

    “As surely as I see with my eyes the bread of the Lord broken for me and the cup given to me, so surely his body was offered and broken for me and his blood poured out for me …
    “Q: What does it mean to eat the crucified body of Christ and to drink His poured out blood? A: It means to accept with a believing heart the entire suffering and death of Christ and by believing to receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body. And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh …”

    In our Bible study, I then asked two questions:
    1. Where does this say Jesus *is* in the Lord’s Supper? (Not “was” but “is.” The “He in heaven and we on earth” were the words that made the difference crystal clear to our people.)
    2. What is missing or different from this teaching and practice of the Lord’s Supper? (This led the Bible class back into the words of Luther’s Catechism — very stark and obvious differences.)

    Pastor Jerry Gernander
    Bethany Lutheran Church (ELS), Princeton MN

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “See the thing is the LCMS position is not one that is “closed” but close, allowing pastors to make exceptions to the rule so to speak.”

    I thought ‘close’ was a typo in book.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_communion#.22Close_Communion.22

    “The earliest use of close communion comes from a mistranslation of the Lutheran theologian Franz August Otto Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics. The term has since spread, although both the first edition and later translations corrected the error to “closed communion.” [6]“

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “See the thing is the LCMS position is not one that is “closed” but close, allowing pastors to make exceptions to the rule so to speak.”

    I thought ‘close’ was a typo in book.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_communion#.22Close_Communion.22

    “The earliest use of close communion comes from a mistranslation of the Lutheran theologian Franz August Otto Pieper’s Christian Dogmatics. The term has since spread, although both the first edition and later translations corrected the error to “closed communion.” [6]“

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Tom,
    Thanks. I just like to see what others do with their statements and practices, to see how it is I can possibly improve mine if nothing else.
    Its not an easy thing for us pastors. We don’t want to exclude people who should be communing with us. But neither do we want to give it to someone for whom it might cause harm. I believe to make it as simple a thing as to close it to all who are not members of the LCMS, or as to open it to anyone, or even open it to all baptized and repentent etc. is a mistake. Both positions are equally harmful. I don’t know, strictly closed might be more harmful than wide open, but both are very problematic. Usually the result of a pastor who doesn’t want to wrestle with what scripture actually says and doesn’t say. I do think that where laity are concerned it is possible and permissible to do as your former pastor did with you. The intention to join, learn and grow combined with some basic instruction, even just an evening’s worth I think is sufficient. Especially considering we have guys who can’t tell the difference between the Westminster confession and Luther’s Small Catechism on the Lord’s Supper, communing at our altars. Almost, Almost, makes the whole idea seem futile.
    Kenneth, seriously, iron this out with your pastor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Tom,
    Thanks. I just like to see what others do with their statements and practices, to see how it is I can possibly improve mine if nothing else.
    Its not an easy thing for us pastors. We don’t want to exclude people who should be communing with us. But neither do we want to give it to someone for whom it might cause harm. I believe to make it as simple a thing as to close it to all who are not members of the LCMS, or as to open it to anyone, or even open it to all baptized and repentent etc. is a mistake. Both positions are equally harmful. I don’t know, strictly closed might be more harmful than wide open, but both are very problematic. Usually the result of a pastor who doesn’t want to wrestle with what scripture actually says and doesn’t say. I do think that where laity are concerned it is possible and permissible to do as your former pastor did with you. The intention to join, learn and grow combined with some basic instruction, even just an evening’s worth I think is sufficient. Especially considering we have guys who can’t tell the difference between the Westminster confession and Luther’s Small Catechism on the Lord’s Supper, communing at our altars. Almost, Almost, makes the whole idea seem futile.
    Kenneth, seriously, iron this out with your pastor.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    sg.
    It might have started as a typo. It is really immaterial, the terms have taken on different meaning since then, and the way they are used today, the LCMS position is more appropriately close. Even though what today is close, was closed then.
    That said, the translations of Pieper are screwed in more way than one. Most of the translations of LCMS foundational docs. translated at that time, are horribly slanted. In fact it is the slanting one way and then the other that has caused most of the confusion in the LCMS over the last century. This is why Harrison is retranslating Kirche und Amt. Mind you these translation errors, as far as I can tell, in the research I have done, were not really errors, but out and out purposeful slanting.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    sg.
    It might have started as a typo. It is really immaterial, the terms have taken on different meaning since then, and the way they are used today, the LCMS position is more appropriately close. Even though what today is close, was closed then.
    That said, the translations of Pieper are screwed in more way than one. Most of the translations of LCMS foundational docs. translated at that time, are horribly slanted. In fact it is the slanting one way and then the other that has caused most of the confusion in the LCMS over the last century. This is why Harrison is retranslating Kirche und Amt. Mind you these translation errors, as far as I can tell, in the research I have done, were not really errors, but out and out purposeful slanting.

  • George A. Marquart

    There is no reason, and I am convinced that Scripture supports this, that we should give blanket permission for any member of another denomination to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord at our altars. As to any Lutheran receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord at the altar of another denomination, that should be up to that particular denomination and the conscience of the recipient.

    On the other hand, barring unusual circumstances (obvious intoxication, mental illness, inappropriate behavior, or the like), I do not believe that any Lutheran Pastor should turn away a person from the altar rail, or refuse to serve that person, simply because the person is unknown to the Pastor. Scripture nowhere says that the Pastor has either the right or the responsibility to judge who may or may not take part in the Sacrament, unless he knows something about that person that would justify his doing so. Obviously this excludes strangers. The responsibility is clearly with the recipient, as in the case of Judas.

    Lutherans and even others often refer to Werner Elert’s “Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries” as the authoritative proof of the correctness of our doctrine of Close Communion. I read the book many years ago and found that its first chapter is indeed a wonderful, scriptural exposition of the Lord’s Supper as it was established by our Lord and commented on by St. Paul. Sadly, all subsequent chapters contradict what is written in the first chapter, basing its authority on practices of the ancient church, rather than on Scripture. The assumption is made that the early Church was somehow exempt from error.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    There is no reason, and I am convinced that Scripture supports this, that we should give blanket permission for any member of another denomination to receive the Body and Blood of our Lord at our altars. As to any Lutheran receiving the Body and Blood of our Lord at the altar of another denomination, that should be up to that particular denomination and the conscience of the recipient.

    On the other hand, barring unusual circumstances (obvious intoxication, mental illness, inappropriate behavior, or the like), I do not believe that any Lutheran Pastor should turn away a person from the altar rail, or refuse to serve that person, simply because the person is unknown to the Pastor. Scripture nowhere says that the Pastor has either the right or the responsibility to judge who may or may not take part in the Sacrament, unless he knows something about that person that would justify his doing so. Obviously this excludes strangers. The responsibility is clearly with the recipient, as in the case of Judas.

    Lutherans and even others often refer to Werner Elert’s “Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries” as the authoritative proof of the correctness of our doctrine of Close Communion. I read the book many years ago and found that its first chapter is indeed a wonderful, scriptural exposition of the Lord’s Supper as it was established by our Lord and commented on by St. Paul. Sadly, all subsequent chapters contradict what is written in the first chapter, basing its authority on practices of the ancient church, rather than on Scripture. The assumption is made that the early Church was somehow exempt from error.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • SKPeterson

    George @ 52 – I recently read Elert’s book and I concur on his first chapter (and the related appendices), however, I would disagree on your assessment of the remainder of the book. Elert was drawing out the history of how the early Church approached the issue of altar fellowship – the theological arguments were established under the parameters he outlined in the beginning of the book. The kicker, and the historical interest of Elert’s work, is how that theology translated into a cohesive eucharistic practice and how it then diverged or changed over time as the Church began its eventual dissolution into the Latin West and the Greek East. I especially enjoyed his research into the original meaning within the Creed of the phrase “communion of the saints” and its direct relationship to Eucharistic practice as partaking in the holy things (sanctorum communio) of Christ. Interesting stuff.

  • SKPeterson

    George @ 52 – I recently read Elert’s book and I concur on his first chapter (and the related appendices), however, I would disagree on your assessment of the remainder of the book. Elert was drawing out the history of how the early Church approached the issue of altar fellowship – the theological arguments were established under the parameters he outlined in the beginning of the book. The kicker, and the historical interest of Elert’s work, is how that theology translated into a cohesive eucharistic practice and how it then diverged or changed over time as the Church began its eventual dissolution into the Latin West and the Greek East. I especially enjoyed his research into the original meaning within the Creed of the phrase “communion of the saints” and its direct relationship to Eucharistic practice as partaking in the holy things (sanctorum communio) of Christ. Interesting stuff.

  • Dan Kempin

    “Scripture nowhere says that the Pastor has either the right or the responsibility to judge who may or may not take part in the Sacrament . . .The responsibility is clearly with the recipient.”

    You can make the argument from silence in the scripture, but you ignore the document of the call, the vow taken at the installation, and the theological support of the lutheran confessions that state it is the PASTOR’S responsibility to rightly administer the sacrament. That is a responsibility that both he and the congregation agreed to honor. It is all laid out very clearly in the signed call documents and the vows taken.

    Honestly, I think much of the “issue” of closed communion comes from a loss of understanding (or perhaps accepting) the pastor’s role. “Who is the pastor to judge whether a person is worthy to commune?” Well, he is the guy that the congregation chose to do just that. True, he is obligated to honor the scripture in keeping this responsibility, but you (you being any person desiring to commune in the congregation he serves) are also obligated to respect his role. How can he be expected to make an appropriate exception to the general guidelines of fellowship* if he is not entrusted with the opportunity to do so? And if he should give an answer that contradicts scripture, will he not have to answer for it? Think twice before you judge someone else’s servant.

    But even putting theological considerations aside, how rude is it to insert yourself in someone elses area of responsibility and disrupt what they are trying to accomplish? We are sometimes so eager to please and avoid conflict that we fail to point out the discourtesy involved.

    *which exceptions are his perogative, as referenced by Bror in #37

  • Dan Kempin

    “Scripture nowhere says that the Pastor has either the right or the responsibility to judge who may or may not take part in the Sacrament . . .The responsibility is clearly with the recipient.”

    You can make the argument from silence in the scripture, but you ignore the document of the call, the vow taken at the installation, and the theological support of the lutheran confessions that state it is the PASTOR’S responsibility to rightly administer the sacrament. That is a responsibility that both he and the congregation agreed to honor. It is all laid out very clearly in the signed call documents and the vows taken.

    Honestly, I think much of the “issue” of closed communion comes from a loss of understanding (or perhaps accepting) the pastor’s role. “Who is the pastor to judge whether a person is worthy to commune?” Well, he is the guy that the congregation chose to do just that. True, he is obligated to honor the scripture in keeping this responsibility, but you (you being any person desiring to commune in the congregation he serves) are also obligated to respect his role. How can he be expected to make an appropriate exception to the general guidelines of fellowship* if he is not entrusted with the opportunity to do so? And if he should give an answer that contradicts scripture, will he not have to answer for it? Think twice before you judge someone else’s servant.

    But even putting theological considerations aside, how rude is it to insert yourself in someone elses area of responsibility and disrupt what they are trying to accomplish? We are sometimes so eager to please and avoid conflict that we fail to point out the discourtesy involved.

    *which exceptions are his perogative, as referenced by Bror in #37

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Yes, we do NOT erect fences and pass out litmus tests for the Sacrament.

    The Baptized are welcomed if they believe that Christ is truly present in the meal.

    Thanks be to God that Jesus broke down fences and did not erect them when He walked the earth. Maybe we could learn a bit from the way He operated while down here.

    We just disagree on this, and it is one of the reasons why I cannot abide in the LCMS.

    Thanks.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Yes, we do NOT erect fences and pass out litmus tests for the Sacrament.

    The Baptized are welcomed if they believe that Christ is truly present in the meal.

    Thanks be to God that Jesus broke down fences and did not erect them when He walked the earth. Maybe we could learn a bit from the way He operated while down here.

    We just disagree on this, and it is one of the reasons why I cannot abide in the LCMS.

    Thanks.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Oh, by the way…I cannot abide in the ELCA, either. I believe their issues are insurmountable.

    But there is a middle ground.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Oh, by the way…I cannot abide in the ELCA, either. I believe their issues are insurmountable.

    But there is a middle ground.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan Kempin is my hero today.

    Just this week I was talking about this topic with my family, including my parents (who joined me this year in the WELS, our family having started out in the LCMS). I was pondering why we conservative Lutherans exclude people from Communion even if we might agree that they have a correct understanding of what Scripture asks of them in regard to Communion. Which is to say, even if someone says, yes, that is literally Christ’s body and yes, it is given for me for my literal forgiveness, we might exclude them because they disagree on some unrelated (but Scriptural) issue. This seemed wrong to me, focused as I was on 1 Cor. 11 only.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that a proper “examination” — even just from the context of 1 Cor. 11 — will touch on a large number of topics. For instance, whose body are you recognizing? Which gets into the nature of Jesus (true God, true man) and the Trinity, as well as other issues like sin, atonement, justification, and so on. Disagreeing on any of these issues would appear to, prima facie, require us to exclude someone from the altar. But what of other things, I pondered, trying to think of a Scriptural matter that didn’t seem implicated, directly or indirectly, in Communion. (It’s not easy to think of such a thing.) Would we exclude someone who was Lutheran in every sense except, I don’t know, that he believed in women’s ordination? That didn’t seem to fit the text of 1 Cor. 11.

    But I was thinking wrong, as Dan reminded me (@12). It’s a question of fellowship.

    Now, I will be the first to admit that, though I belong to a denomination largely defined (by others, at least) by its distinct take on the doctrine of fellowship, I’m not terribly good at remembering the Scriptural basis for everything the same. I’ve been over it every time and found myself agreeing, but I basically need to keep a pamphlet in my Bible with all the passages highlighted for me. It’s a flaw.

    And I also think that many (most?) in the WELS do take (or could be accused of taking) fellowship to legalistic extremes. It should be less a question of “What’s the hard-and-fast rule for this situation?”, and more one of “What is best and most loving here?”

    But regardless, Dan is right. This is about fellowship. I’m surprised to see so few people taking him up on that idea.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Dan Kempin is my hero today.

    Just this week I was talking about this topic with my family, including my parents (who joined me this year in the WELS, our family having started out in the LCMS). I was pondering why we conservative Lutherans exclude people from Communion even if we might agree that they have a correct understanding of what Scripture asks of them in regard to Communion. Which is to say, even if someone says, yes, that is literally Christ’s body and yes, it is given for me for my literal forgiveness, we might exclude them because they disagree on some unrelated (but Scriptural) issue. This seemed wrong to me, focused as I was on 1 Cor. 11 only.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that a proper “examination” — even just from the context of 1 Cor. 11 — will touch on a large number of topics. For instance, whose body are you recognizing? Which gets into the nature of Jesus (true God, true man) and the Trinity, as well as other issues like sin, atonement, justification, and so on. Disagreeing on any of these issues would appear to, prima facie, require us to exclude someone from the altar. But what of other things, I pondered, trying to think of a Scriptural matter that didn’t seem implicated, directly or indirectly, in Communion. (It’s not easy to think of such a thing.) Would we exclude someone who was Lutheran in every sense except, I don’t know, that he believed in women’s ordination? That didn’t seem to fit the text of 1 Cor. 11.

    But I was thinking wrong, as Dan reminded me (@12). It’s a question of fellowship.

    Now, I will be the first to admit that, though I belong to a denomination largely defined (by others, at least) by its distinct take on the doctrine of fellowship, I’m not terribly good at remembering the Scriptural basis for everything the same. I’ve been over it every time and found myself agreeing, but I basically need to keep a pamphlet in my Bible with all the passages highlighted for me. It’s a flaw.

    And I also think that many (most?) in the WELS do take (or could be accused of taking) fellowship to legalistic extremes. It should be less a question of “What’s the hard-and-fast rule for this situation?”, and more one of “What is best and most loving here?”

    But regardless, Dan is right. This is about fellowship. I’m surprised to see so few people taking him up on that idea.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk (@26), much as it might amuse you to focus on the Boy Scout issue, it’s not clear that you’ve actually understood the topic.

    Disagreeing “over the Boy Scouts” is just another manifestation of the doctrine of fellowship, which arguably has more “important” manifestations, to which Helen has alluded (@43).

    But yes, the BSA is a religious organization. They explicitly exclude atheists and agnostics. They maintain that “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognising an obligation to God”. But they allow practically any definition for “God” to suffice, including some vague “higher power” (as well as whatever pantheists and Buddhists, for example, may believe in, even if it isn’t strictly “God”).

    So you tell me: given those beliefs, what difference is there between a church that aligns itself with the BSA (on the one hand), and a church that aligns itself with another denomination that allows any definition of “God” to suffice? If your church did the latter, wouldn’t you be concerned that this was not a proper testimony to God’s Truth? Wouldn’t you be concerned that a false witness was being borne by your church to those in this Unitarian-Universalist-ish denomination? Even if the UU-ish denomination did a lot of good?

    I would. And I’m an Eagle Scout. As well as a WELS member (didn’t become WELS until after college).

    What’s really a pity is that the Boy Scouts refuse to alter their official tenets on religion, even though they’re largely pointless and often don’t affect the average Scout in his troop’s activity. Oh well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    WebMonk (@26), much as it might amuse you to focus on the Boy Scout issue, it’s not clear that you’ve actually understood the topic.

    Disagreeing “over the Boy Scouts” is just another manifestation of the doctrine of fellowship, which arguably has more “important” manifestations, to which Helen has alluded (@43).

    But yes, the BSA is a religious organization. They explicitly exclude atheists and agnostics. They maintain that “no member can grow into the best kind of citizen without recognising an obligation to God”. But they allow practically any definition for “God” to suffice, including some vague “higher power” (as well as whatever pantheists and Buddhists, for example, may believe in, even if it isn’t strictly “God”).

    So you tell me: given those beliefs, what difference is there between a church that aligns itself with the BSA (on the one hand), and a church that aligns itself with another denomination that allows any definition of “God” to suffice? If your church did the latter, wouldn’t you be concerned that this was not a proper testimony to God’s Truth? Wouldn’t you be concerned that a false witness was being borne by your church to those in this Unitarian-Universalist-ish denomination? Even if the UU-ish denomination did a lot of good?

    I would. And I’m an Eagle Scout. As well as a WELS member (didn’t become WELS until after college).

    What’s really a pity is that the Boy Scouts refuse to alter their official tenets on religion, even though they’re largely pointless and often don’t affect the average Scout in his troop’s activity. Oh well.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    One more reply.

    WebMonk said (@24):

    Look at all the various reasons given by all the tiny little splinters of Lutheran denominations for not communing with each other.

    DonS said (@33):

    The many Lutheran splinters, and the fact that many won’t cross-commune, seem to indicate that there is more going with the practice of closed communion than mere doctrinal comity.

    But here’s the thing. The fact that these “splinters” won’t commune each other actually reflects the fact that they all alike share a belief in and understanding of the doctrine of fellowship. And, based on that, any other Scriptural difference preclude them (in love) from communing each other.

    You two, however, are both arguing from the popular American Evangelical understanding of fellowship, which is largely fundamentalist in nature (in a very literal sense, pointing only to the so-called “fundamentals” of faith and ignoring the rest of Scripture). You see groups that are “so close”, having passed some imaginary, undefined line in terms of shared doctrine, that you can’t understand why they wouldn’t commune. They are “close enough”.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    One more reply.

    WebMonk said (@24):

    Look at all the various reasons given by all the tiny little splinters of Lutheran denominations for not communing with each other.

    DonS said (@33):

    The many Lutheran splinters, and the fact that many won’t cross-commune, seem to indicate that there is more going with the practice of closed communion than mere doctrinal comity.

    But here’s the thing. The fact that these “splinters” won’t commune each other actually reflects the fact that they all alike share a belief in and understanding of the doctrine of fellowship. And, based on that, any other Scriptural difference preclude them (in love) from communing each other.

    You two, however, are both arguing from the popular American Evangelical understanding of fellowship, which is largely fundamentalist in nature (in a very literal sense, pointing only to the so-called “fundamentals” of faith and ignoring the rest of Scripture). You see groups that are “so close”, having passed some imaginary, undefined line in terms of shared doctrine, that you can’t understand why they wouldn’t commune. They are “close enough”.

  • kerner

    Pr. Marquardt @52:

    Thank you for your comment on a book that was supposed to be authoritative, but which did not actually support the proposition as recommended. I had a similar experience a few years ago, I think it was Ehlert, but I am not sure anymore.

    What I found was that the early Church first started practicing “excommunication” over doctrinal matters at a time when the issues went right to the heart of Christianity. At the time when the Eccumenical Creeds were being written, the Church was basically saying, “If you don’t believe in the Holy Trinity or that Christ is both True God and True Man, then you are not a Christian. Hence, you cannot receive Holy Communion.” We would say this today to a Muslim or a Jew or a Jehovah’s Witness.

    But only in later centuries, when Popes began to set themselves up as the Gatekeepers of Christianity, did dissent on each and every issue become grounds for excommunication. There was sonething of a climax when the Pope and the Bishop of Constantinople excommunicated each other over their dispute over authority (which had doctrinal overtones but was in reality mostly a turf war). And of course, Luther and his followers were excommunicated and declared anathema (which of course would mean “not saved” or not Christians)

    I really don’t see that much confessional support for a the rigid rule we see practiced in some confessional congregations. While the scriptures talk about the serious consequences of taking Communion “unworthily” The FC defines unwotthiness as follows:

    But it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body of Christ load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

    69] For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith…

    71] And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.” FC VII 68-69, 71

    The unworthy are those who do not have true faith and repentence. Wanting to join the Boy Scouts does not appear to be a deal killer.

    And I am afraid I don’t see that much merit in arguments to the effect that “we are not calling you a non-Christian, we are only saying we disagree with you on certain points and assume that you ae communing regularly with your fellow heretics elsewhere.” (Sorry Dan).

    First of all, I really don’t see much Biblical or Confessional support for withholding forgiveness of sins on that basis.

    Second, since when is forgiveness of our sins so unimportant that we think we can lightly delay it for a week?

    Third, how do we know the penitent Christian is receiving the sacrament elsewhere? The FC says:

    To preserve this true Christian doctrine concerning the Holy Supper, and to avoid and abolish manifold idolatrous abuses and perversions of this testament, the following useful rule and standard has been derived from the words of institution: Nihil habet rationem sacramenti extra usum a Christo institutum (“Nothing has the nature of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ”) or extra actionem divinitus institutam (“apart from the action divinely instituted”). That is: If the institution of Christ be not observed as He appointed it, there is no sacrament. This is by no means to be rejected, but can and should be urged and maintained with profit in the Church of God. 86] And the use or action here does not mean chiefly faith, neither the oral participation only, but the entire external, visible action of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ, [to this indeed is required] the consecration, or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or oral partaking [manducation] of the consecrated bread and wine, [likewise the partaking] of the body and blood of Christ. 87] And apart from this use, when in the papistic mass the bread is not distributed, but offered up or enclosed, borne about, and exhibited for adoration, it is to be regarded as no sacrament;” FC VII 85-87

    Which was pretty much saying that the Roman Catholic practice of the day was no sacrament. Today, many Lutheran theologians take the position that the Reformed or Baptists, who deny the Real Presence, do not have the Sacrament of the Altar, especially those who corrupt the Words of Institution (such as adding that the bread and grape juice are only symbolic) as they distribute the elements. If that position is true, then there are many baptized Christians in this world who have never received communion. So I don’t think we can assume that the Body and Blood are actually being received down at the local American Protestant Church.

    So, I have the same question as Cincinnatus. If “worthiness” to receive Holy Communion is based on being a penitent Christian, and since Lutherans do not claim to be the only Christians on Earth (not the “one true Church”), how does a simplistic “closed” rule make any sense? Bror’s comments, and Tom Herring’s, make a lot more sense to me.

  • kerner

    Pr. Marquardt @52:

    Thank you for your comment on a book that was supposed to be authoritative, but which did not actually support the proposition as recommended. I had a similar experience a few years ago, I think it was Ehlert, but I am not sure anymore.

    What I found was that the early Church first started practicing “excommunication” over doctrinal matters at a time when the issues went right to the heart of Christianity. At the time when the Eccumenical Creeds were being written, the Church was basically saying, “If you don’t believe in the Holy Trinity or that Christ is both True God and True Man, then you are not a Christian. Hence, you cannot receive Holy Communion.” We would say this today to a Muslim or a Jew or a Jehovah’s Witness.

    But only in later centuries, when Popes began to set themselves up as the Gatekeepers of Christianity, did dissent on each and every issue become grounds for excommunication. There was sonething of a climax when the Pope and the Bishop of Constantinople excommunicated each other over their dispute over authority (which had doctrinal overtones but was in reality mostly a turf war). And of course, Luther and his followers were excommunicated and declared anathema (which of course would mean “not saved” or not Christians)

    I really don’t see that much confessional support for a the rigid rule we see practiced in some confessional congregations. While the scriptures talk about the serious consequences of taking Communion “unworthily” The FC defines unwotthiness as follows:

    But it must [also] be carefully explained who are the unworthy guests of this Supper, namely, those who go to this Sacrament without true repentance and sorrow for their sins, and without true faith and the good intention of amending their lives, and by their unworthy oral eating of the body of Christ load themselves with damnation, that is, with temporal and eternal punishments, and become guilty of the body and blood of Christ.

    69] For Christians who are of weak faith, diffident, troubled, and heartily terrified because of the greatness and number of their sins, and think that in this their great impurity they are not worthy of this precious treasure and the benefits of Christ, and who feel and lament their weakness of faith, and from their hearts desire that they may serve God with stronger, more joyful faith…

    71] And worthiness does not depend upon great or small weakness or strength of faith, but upon the merit of Christ, which the distressed father of little faith [ Mark 9:24 ] enjoyed as well as Abraham, Paul, and others who have a joyful and strong faith.” FC VII 68-69, 71

    The unworthy are those who do not have true faith and repentence. Wanting to join the Boy Scouts does not appear to be a deal killer.

    And I am afraid I don’t see that much merit in arguments to the effect that “we are not calling you a non-Christian, we are only saying we disagree with you on certain points and assume that you ae communing regularly with your fellow heretics elsewhere.” (Sorry Dan).

    First of all, I really don’t see much Biblical or Confessional support for withholding forgiveness of sins on that basis.

    Second, since when is forgiveness of our sins so unimportant that we think we can lightly delay it for a week?

    Third, how do we know the penitent Christian is receiving the sacrament elsewhere? The FC says:

    To preserve this true Christian doctrine concerning the Holy Supper, and to avoid and abolish manifold idolatrous abuses and perversions of this testament, the following useful rule and standard has been derived from the words of institution: Nihil habet rationem sacramenti extra usum a Christo institutum (“Nothing has the nature of a sacrament apart from the use instituted by Christ”) or extra actionem divinitus institutam (“apart from the action divinely instituted”). That is: If the institution of Christ be not observed as He appointed it, there is no sacrament. This is by no means to be rejected, but can and should be urged and maintained with profit in the Church of God. 86] And the use or action here does not mean chiefly faith, neither the oral participation only, but the entire external, visible action of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ, [to this indeed is required] the consecration, or words of institution, the distribution and reception, or oral partaking [manducation] of the consecrated bread and wine, [likewise the partaking] of the body and blood of Christ. 87] And apart from this use, when in the papistic mass the bread is not distributed, but offered up or enclosed, borne about, and exhibited for adoration, it is to be regarded as no sacrament;” FC VII 85-87

    Which was pretty much saying that the Roman Catholic practice of the day was no sacrament. Today, many Lutheran theologians take the position that the Reformed or Baptists, who deny the Real Presence, do not have the Sacrament of the Altar, especially those who corrupt the Words of Institution (such as adding that the bread and grape juice are only symbolic) as they distribute the elements. If that position is true, then there are many baptized Christians in this world who have never received communion. So I don’t think we can assume that the Body and Blood are actually being received down at the local American Protestant Church.

    So, I have the same question as Cincinnatus. If “worthiness” to receive Holy Communion is based on being a penitent Christian, and since Lutherans do not claim to be the only Christians on Earth (not the “one true Church”), how does a simplistic “closed” rule make any sense? Bror’s comments, and Tom Herring’s, make a lot more sense to me.

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    Honestly, the lack of rituals in the Lutheran church sends a message that is OK. Of course there are poorly written communion cards that make no sense and a million different Lutheran subsets…

  • http://www.whenisayrunrun.blogspot.com Andrew

    Honestly, the lack of rituals in the Lutheran church sends a message that is OK. Of course there are poorly written communion cards that make no sense and a million different Lutheran subsets…

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD @ 59 sums it up about as best as it can be.

    The fact that the “splinters” are small and the RCC and Orthodox are large doesn’t change the principle of fellowship. I men if the “splinters” like WELS and LCMS had 100 times as many members would that make the disagreement more legitimate? One thing about closed communion is that it causes people to actually discuss doctrines, which is a good thing, I think. If every church body had open communion, we wouldn’t be discussing this. Which brings my stream of consciousness to baptism. Do some churches practice closed baptism? Do they tell some people (infants) that they can’t be baptised? Well, yeah. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD @ 59 sums it up about as best as it can be.

    The fact that the “splinters” are small and the RCC and Orthodox are large doesn’t change the principle of fellowship. I men if the “splinters” like WELS and LCMS had 100 times as many members would that make the disagreement more legitimate? One thing about closed communion is that it causes people to actually discuss doctrines, which is a good thing, I think. If every church body had open communion, we wouldn’t be discussing this. Which brings my stream of consciousness to baptism. Do some churches practice closed baptism? Do they tell some people (infants) that they can’t be baptised? Well, yeah. Now the shoe is on the other foot.

  • Jonathan

    tODD @ 57, I get your angst over the fellowship stuff. I really don’t get it either. I empathize with your conflictedness. (O, yeah, this is the Non-RC Jonathan.)

  • Jonathan

    tODD @ 57, I get your angst over the fellowship stuff. I really don’t get it either. I empathize with your conflictedness. (O, yeah, this is the Non-RC Jonathan.)

  • Kelly

    When I was a Baptist kid in a Catholic elementary school, I asked my mom why I wasn’t going up to take Communion with the rest of my little friends. I still remember her response: “We don’t believe the same things about it.” That answer satisfied me.

    When first examining the teachings of the Lutheran church, I was initially put out by the fact that I couldn’t commune right away. Then my mom’s words came back to me. As a Baptist, why should I *want* to receive Communion at a place that teaches a real, bodily presence of Jesus, received for the forgiveness of sins, just like the Catholics teach? As other people have noted, part of the problem is that I had assumed off-the-bat that Lutherans were “just like us Protestants.” But Lutherans have never viewed themselves that way, or considered themselves to be as closely aligned with the Reformed as the Reformed themselves tend to think.

    Another part of the problem is that I wanted to receive Communion for my own reasons… because I felt that I had a “right” to it, and that (trained by a lifetime of open communion, quasi-ecumenism, and symbolic-only theology) I believed that anyone who would deny me my right was denying that I believed in Jesus or wanted to “remember” him. I was not really interested in receiving the benefits that Lutherans claimed went with the Supper. To be honest, the offense was largely emotional, even when I understood the reality of what was being taught and why. Lots of patience is needed on this front. It takes awhile to mentally move on from “Lutheran pastors are big meanies who don’t WANT people to be forgiven or have Jesus; they just want to be sectarian and they’re CERTAINLY not motivated by love! etc”

  • Kelly

    When I was a Baptist kid in a Catholic elementary school, I asked my mom why I wasn’t going up to take Communion with the rest of my little friends. I still remember her response: “We don’t believe the same things about it.” That answer satisfied me.

    When first examining the teachings of the Lutheran church, I was initially put out by the fact that I couldn’t commune right away. Then my mom’s words came back to me. As a Baptist, why should I *want* to receive Communion at a place that teaches a real, bodily presence of Jesus, received for the forgiveness of sins, just like the Catholics teach? As other people have noted, part of the problem is that I had assumed off-the-bat that Lutherans were “just like us Protestants.” But Lutherans have never viewed themselves that way, or considered themselves to be as closely aligned with the Reformed as the Reformed themselves tend to think.

    Another part of the problem is that I wanted to receive Communion for my own reasons… because I felt that I had a “right” to it, and that (trained by a lifetime of open communion, quasi-ecumenism, and symbolic-only theology) I believed that anyone who would deny me my right was denying that I believed in Jesus or wanted to “remember” him. I was not really interested in receiving the benefits that Lutherans claimed went with the Supper. To be honest, the offense was largely emotional, even when I understood the reality of what was being taught and why. Lots of patience is needed on this front. It takes awhile to mentally move on from “Lutheran pastors are big meanies who don’t WANT people to be forgiven or have Jesus; they just want to be sectarian and they’re CERTAINLY not motivated by love! etc”

  • fws

    webmonk
    FW – according to your view the closed communion is tied to the understanding of Grace.

    actually my point was the exact oposite. i am leaning pretty hard on the Law in my post.

  • fws

    webmonk
    FW – according to your view the closed communion is tied to the understanding of Grace.

    actually my point was the exact oposite. i am leaning pretty hard on the Law in my post.

  • fws

    kerner @ 60

    So, I have the same question as Cincinnatus. If “worthiness” to receive Holy Communion is based on being a penitent Christian, and since Lutherans do not claim to be the only Christians on Earth (not the “one true Church”), how does a simplistic “closed” rule make any sense? Bror’s comments, and Tom Herring’s, make a lot more sense to me.

    what these men both describe is , in fact, the Lutheran practice of closed communion ok? so you then can know that you favor closed communion!

    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/09/14/closed-communion-question/#comment-127010

  • fws

    kerner @ 60

    So, I have the same question as Cincinnatus. If “worthiness” to receive Holy Communion is based on being a penitent Christian, and since Lutherans do not claim to be the only Christians on Earth (not the “one true Church”), how does a simplistic “closed” rule make any sense? Bror’s comments, and Tom Herring’s, make a lot more sense to me.

    what these men both describe is , in fact, the Lutheran practice of closed communion ok? so you then can know that you favor closed communion!

    http://www.geneveith.com/2011/09/14/closed-communion-question/#comment-127010

  • George A. Marquart

    One additional comment: Rev. H. R. Curtis recently presented a very interesting paper, “Freed From the Shopkeeper’s Prison”. If you look at Close(d) Communion from the point of view of the Elect, then you might want to ask yourself the question, “Will a member of the Elect ever drink judgment to himself?”

    S. K. Peterson @52 Sasse also writes about “Communion of Saints” and “Sharing Holy Things” in “Sanctorum Communio” (1974) citing Elert. I remember reading somewhere about the small difference between “koinonia teis hagios” and “koinonia town hagiown”. It may loose something in Latin letters. I recall also that there was a time when Greek became practically a lost language in the West, so that a lot of mistakes were made in translating to Latin – some leading to bloodshed.

    Kerner @60. Thanks for the honorific, but I am not a pastor. According to the “ad hominem” principle, that does not automatically disqualify me from being right in some rare instances.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    One additional comment: Rev. H. R. Curtis recently presented a very interesting paper, “Freed From the Shopkeeper’s Prison”. If you look at Close(d) Communion from the point of view of the Elect, then you might want to ask yourself the question, “Will a member of the Elect ever drink judgment to himself?”

    S. K. Peterson @52 Sasse also writes about “Communion of Saints” and “Sharing Holy Things” in “Sanctorum Communio” (1974) citing Elert. I remember reading somewhere about the small difference between “koinonia teis hagios” and “koinonia town hagiown”. It may loose something in Latin letters. I recall also that there was a time when Greek became practically a lost language in the West, so that a lot of mistakes were made in translating to Latin – some leading to bloodshed.

    Kerner @60. Thanks for the honorific, but I am not a pastor. According to the “ad hominem” principle, that does not automatically disqualify me from being right in some rare instances.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • Dan Kempin

    kerner, #61,

    You illustrate with utter clarity some classic MIS understandings of the lutheran understanding of restrictive fellowship. I don’t expect you to agree, of course, but I would like you to understand.

    First, (and I would repeat this seven times if I thought it would get the message out), restrictive fellowship is NOT an excommunication. It is not. It is not a statement that a person is not a Christian, not right with God, or not understanding the doctrine of the Lord’s supper. It is NOT a statement that their church is a false church or an invalid church. Not. Not. Not.

    It is a recognition that, while we welcome you as a fellow Christian and have, in fact, just worshipped with you in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, our churches are not yet fully unified in doctrine. And it is a painful recognition, we teach, that ought to move us to seek true and complete doctrinal concord.

    It is true that the excommunicated and the unrepentant and the heretical are also banned from the Loird’s table, but that is not closed communion. It is not a question of whether we may, in Christian freedom, welcome all fellow Christians to our altar, for we MAY do that. It is a question of whether we OUGHT to express fellowship in a way that communicates that the grievous divisions in the church are just not very important.

    Second, per my own posts at #41 and #55, the practice of closed communion is NOT (repeat: NOT) a statement that a person is unworthy to receive the sacrament. It is an statement that it would be inappropriate for us to express full public unity. If you are affiliated with another church, then you HAVE a church in which you receive the Lord’s supper. So we deny you nothing but the impression that our churches are not divided.

    That, and an “open communion” policy in which a person decides for themself whether or not they should commune short circuits the pastors role and the whole lutheran understanding of a pastor’s responsibility.

    Thirdly, and this goes hand in hand, restrictive fellowship is not “withholding the forgiveness of sins.” If that’s what you take from it, it is no wonder that you are offended. I’m the first to admit that the “optics” on closed communion are terrible, but I am hopeful that in this forum we can disagree with the position and not just the perception.

    Besides, to all of you non lutheran visitors, remember that you are visitors. You are guests. You know full well that we have differing positions, and that is presumably why you are not a member with us. If I were to show up at a baptist church and harrangue the pastor about infant baptism, I’m pretty sure my behavior would be rude rather than evangelistic.

    Finally, you say, “how do we know a person is receiving the sacrament elsewhere? . . . I don’t think we can assume that the Body and Blood are actually being received down at the local American Protestant Church. ”

    Very good point. If you let that sink in, I think it rather illustrates the lutheran position. Is membership in such a church, where someone is not even receiving the sacrament, (no examples given)something that should be approved? If we really believe what we say we believe, do you really expect us to say that all is well?

  • Dan Kempin

    kerner, #61,

    You illustrate with utter clarity some classic MIS understandings of the lutheran understanding of restrictive fellowship. I don’t expect you to agree, of course, but I would like you to understand.

    First, (and I would repeat this seven times if I thought it would get the message out), restrictive fellowship is NOT an excommunication. It is not. It is not a statement that a person is not a Christian, not right with God, or not understanding the doctrine of the Lord’s supper. It is NOT a statement that their church is a false church or an invalid church. Not. Not. Not.

    It is a recognition that, while we welcome you as a fellow Christian and have, in fact, just worshipped with you in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, our churches are not yet fully unified in doctrine. And it is a painful recognition, we teach, that ought to move us to seek true and complete doctrinal concord.

    It is true that the excommunicated and the unrepentant and the heretical are also banned from the Loird’s table, but that is not closed communion. It is not a question of whether we may, in Christian freedom, welcome all fellow Christians to our altar, for we MAY do that. It is a question of whether we OUGHT to express fellowship in a way that communicates that the grievous divisions in the church are just not very important.

    Second, per my own posts at #41 and #55, the practice of closed communion is NOT (repeat: NOT) a statement that a person is unworthy to receive the sacrament. It is an statement that it would be inappropriate for us to express full public unity. If you are affiliated with another church, then you HAVE a church in which you receive the Lord’s supper. So we deny you nothing but the impression that our churches are not divided.

    That, and an “open communion” policy in which a person decides for themself whether or not they should commune short circuits the pastors role and the whole lutheran understanding of a pastor’s responsibility.

    Thirdly, and this goes hand in hand, restrictive fellowship is not “withholding the forgiveness of sins.” If that’s what you take from it, it is no wonder that you are offended. I’m the first to admit that the “optics” on closed communion are terrible, but I am hopeful that in this forum we can disagree with the position and not just the perception.

    Besides, to all of you non lutheran visitors, remember that you are visitors. You are guests. You know full well that we have differing positions, and that is presumably why you are not a member with us. If I were to show up at a baptist church and harrangue the pastor about infant baptism, I’m pretty sure my behavior would be rude rather than evangelistic.

    Finally, you say, “how do we know a person is receiving the sacrament elsewhere? . . . I don’t think we can assume that the Body and Blood are actually being received down at the local American Protestant Church. ”

    Very good point. If you let that sink in, I think it rather illustrates the lutheran position. Is membership in such a church, where someone is not even receiving the sacrament, (no examples given)something that should be approved? If we really believe what we say we believe, do you really expect us to say that all is well?

  • kerner

    Dan:

    I DO understand. I just don’t know where in Scripture, or the confessions, you find support for using a sacrament in such a way. The purpose of the sacraments, like the preaching of God’s Word, is to convey forgivemness of sins. That is so abundantly clear (to a Lutheran, anyway) from Scripture and the confessions that I won’t bother to provide citations unlaess you require them.

    But where on God’s green earth can you find support for your position in Scripture or the confessions?

    Where to these teach that:

    1. That a purpose of the sacrament is to make the statements you want to make, and

    2. That making those statements is so important that making them supercedes conveying forgiveness of sins to penitent Christians?

  • kerner

    Dan:

    I DO understand. I just don’t know where in Scripture, or the confessions, you find support for using a sacrament in such a way. The purpose of the sacraments, like the preaching of God’s Word, is to convey forgivemness of sins. That is so abundantly clear (to a Lutheran, anyway) from Scripture and the confessions that I won’t bother to provide citations unlaess you require them.

    But where on God’s green earth can you find support for your position in Scripture or the confessions?

    Where to these teach that:

    1. That a purpose of the sacrament is to make the statements you want to make, and

    2. That making those statements is so important that making them supercedes conveying forgiveness of sins to penitent Christians?

  • Dan Kempin

    kerner, #70,

    Let’s turn it around for a moment. For the sake of argument, I am willing to let go of the whole idea of fellowship and public confession being connected to the sacrament. (For the moment.) Fine.

    The sacrament is for the forgiveness of sins, as you say. Yet you cite the lutheran confessions stating that a Christian ought to be examined before partaking in the Lord’s supper. Who, then, is responsible for this examination?

    Put more bluntly, the lutheran pastor has a responsibility. How is a pastor expected to vouch for the confession of a stranger, and how can he responsibly bless a person who, by association at least, holds a view that he, and the whole congegation with him, believes is dangerous to faith?

    By your argument, the Lord’s table is not to be responsibly served by someone who judges according to the Lord’s mandate, but is rather a self-serve buffet for the general public. Such issues of doctrine and fellowship have no place in the sacrament, you say. Let each person decide for himself whether or not he is forgiven.

    I think the issue you are raising is not the sacrament alone, but the whole idea of church and ministry. What is church membership and what purpose, if any, does it serve? What is the role of the pastor? We lutherans call our pastors to be responsible for those under their care and for the right administration of the sacrament. We teach, as the scripture teaches, that they will have to give an account. That alone is reason enough to explain that those not under their care do not have the right to demand the privilege of pastoral relationship without the obligation. Nor ought they demand, as though it is a right, that a pastor carry out his responsibility in a way that violates his conscience.

  • Dan Kempin

    kerner, #70,

    Let’s turn it around for a moment. For the sake of argument, I am willing to let go of the whole idea of fellowship and public confession being connected to the sacrament. (For the moment.) Fine.

    The sacrament is for the forgiveness of sins, as you say. Yet you cite the lutheran confessions stating that a Christian ought to be examined before partaking in the Lord’s supper. Who, then, is responsible for this examination?

    Put more bluntly, the lutheran pastor has a responsibility. How is a pastor expected to vouch for the confession of a stranger, and how can he responsibly bless a person who, by association at least, holds a view that he, and the whole congegation with him, believes is dangerous to faith?

    By your argument, the Lord’s table is not to be responsibly served by someone who judges according to the Lord’s mandate, but is rather a self-serve buffet for the general public. Such issues of doctrine and fellowship have no place in the sacrament, you say. Let each person decide for himself whether or not he is forgiven.

    I think the issue you are raising is not the sacrament alone, but the whole idea of church and ministry. What is church membership and what purpose, if any, does it serve? What is the role of the pastor? We lutherans call our pastors to be responsible for those under their care and for the right administration of the sacrament. We teach, as the scripture teaches, that they will have to give an account. That alone is reason enough to explain that those not under their care do not have the right to demand the privilege of pastoral relationship without the obligation. Nor ought they demand, as though it is a right, that a pastor carry out his responsibility in a way that violates his conscience.

  • Tom Hering

    This is primarily about fellowship if we are limiting the discussion to Lutherans of one denomination communing with Lutherans of another denomination. Otherwise, not. It’s primarily about the forgiveness of sins, and whether or not one believes it’s given in the Sacrament. What else is the body and blood of Christ but forgiveness? And who should be kept from receiving this forgiveness, except he who doesn’t believe he receives it in the Sacrament? Such a person truly eats and drinks judgment upon himself (compounds his sins), and we exclude him to protect him, not us. Beyond this, I see no reason to exclude anyone baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – who has examined himself and confessed his sinfulness.

  • Tom Hering

    This is primarily about fellowship if we are limiting the discussion to Lutherans of one denomination communing with Lutherans of another denomination. Otherwise, not. It’s primarily about the forgiveness of sins, and whether or not one believes it’s given in the Sacrament. What else is the body and blood of Christ but forgiveness? And who should be kept from receiving this forgiveness, except he who doesn’t believe he receives it in the Sacrament? Such a person truly eats and drinks judgment upon himself (compounds his sins), and we exclude him to protect him, not us. Beyond this, I see no reason to exclude anyone baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit – who has examined himself and confessed his sinfulness.

  • Phillip

    Apparently the Orthodox bishop in my town practices open communion. An LCMS friend of mine takes communion from him on occasion. It’s odd, but I suppose even conservative dioceses have a few liberals. I’m surprised the bishop was doing it though.

  • Phillip

    Apparently the Orthodox bishop in my town practices open communion. An LCMS friend of mine takes communion from him on occasion. It’s odd, but I suppose even conservative dioceses have a few liberals. I’m surprised the bishop was doing it though.

  • fws

    kerner @ 70

    wow. You are asking for dan to show from the confessions and scripture what the basis for his position is!

    I am so very pleased! I hope you keep that uP! Here are just some support from the Confessions for the pastor to be responsible to ensure that people can examine themselves before they commune:

    5] The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public 6] worship. For none are admitted 7] except they be first examined. Augsburg Confessions art XXIV of the Mass.

    1] Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved. And 2] the people are most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution, about which formerly there 3] was profound silence. Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as being the voice of God, 4] and pronounced by God’s command. AC XXV “on confession”

    Here the confessions seem to be saying that they dont commune anyone that has not made a private confession of sins!

    Also you might want to read through Dr Luthers brief questions and answers to prepare ones self for the Blessed Sacrament.

    http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php#qanda

    You are saying that a Pastor should feel no burden of conscience in ensuring that those who commune can self examine in this way?

    Is it that you dont understand what closed communion is? Are you proposing that ANY one should be invited to the table? Buddhists? Muslims? Any Baptized one?

    Closed communion is NOT this: “only those in fellowship with the (fill in the synod here) are allowed. NO one here is defining closed communion in this way.

    I am sorry if you are in a WELS or LCMS church that follows this practice as a legalism. This is not confessional or pastoral or even wise.

  • fws

    kerner @ 70

    wow. You are asking for dan to show from the confessions and scripture what the basis for his position is!

    I am so very pleased! I hope you keep that uP! Here are just some support from the Confessions for the pastor to be responsible to ensure that people can examine themselves before they commune:

    5] The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public 6] worship. For none are admitted 7] except they be first examined. Augsburg Confessions art XXIV of the Mass.

    1] Confession in the churches is not abolished among us; for it is not usual to give the body of the Lord, except to them that have been previously examined and absolved. And 2] the people are most carefully taught concerning faith in the absolution, about which formerly there 3] was profound silence. Our people are taught that they should highly prize the absolution, as being the voice of God, 4] and pronounced by God’s command. AC XXV “on confession”

    Here the confessions seem to be saying that they dont commune anyone that has not made a private confession of sins!

    Also you might want to read through Dr Luthers brief questions and answers to prepare ones self for the Blessed Sacrament.

    http://bookofconcord.org/smallcatechism.php#qanda

    You are saying that a Pastor should feel no burden of conscience in ensuring that those who commune can self examine in this way?

    Is it that you dont understand what closed communion is? Are you proposing that ANY one should be invited to the table? Buddhists? Muslims? Any Baptized one?

    Closed communion is NOT this: “only those in fellowship with the (fill in the synod here) are allowed. NO one here is defining closed communion in this way.

    I am sorry if you are in a WELS or LCMS church that follows this practice as a legalism. This is not confessional or pastoral or even wise.

  • kerner

    fws, you said of my position:

    “what these men both describe is , in fact, the Lutheran practice of closed communion ok? so you then can know that you favor closed communion!” @67 But also:

    “Is it that you dont understand what closed communion is? Are you proposing that ANY one should be invited to the table? Buddhists? Muslims? Any Baptized one?” @74

    I liked your first conclusion better. Of course I am not suggesting that non-believers be communed. I am only suggesting what I was suggesting before: That a system such as the one Tom described @29 and @31 is much better than the rigid (not confirmed in our synod–no communion for you!) rule that I believe has been the norm in a lot of congregations. I think such a rigid rule is simply laziness, and opposes our doctrine about the sacramental nature of communion.

    Where would I draw the cut off line? I am not sure I am qualified to say. I’m not a pastor, and I hesitate to make judgment calls in place of those called to the ministry, especially is specific cases near the grayer areas where judgment is needed. But I do think that a lot of Christians that would be excluded under rigid rules would be admitted if the time were taken to examine them.

    Dan, I guess I think that church membership is form, not substance. It is a customary practice that we adopt for the sake of order. The Church, the real Church exists wherever two or more gather around the Word and sacraments. Whether the organizational polity of a congregation or synod is Law as oposed to Gospel (as frank has said) I am not sure.

    But as far as being admitted to the Lord’s Table is concerned, I really don’t see much express, or even implied, support in the confessions for making formal membership a rigid determining factor for granting, or withholding (or even delaying) the forgiveness that a penitent Christian receives in the Lord’s Supper. Maybe it is a good place to begin the inquiry, but surely not the end of it.

  • kerner

    fws, you said of my position:

    “what these men both describe is , in fact, the Lutheran practice of closed communion ok? so you then can know that you favor closed communion!” @67 But also:

    “Is it that you dont understand what closed communion is? Are you proposing that ANY one should be invited to the table? Buddhists? Muslims? Any Baptized one?” @74

    I liked your first conclusion better. Of course I am not suggesting that non-believers be communed. I am only suggesting what I was suggesting before: That a system such as the one Tom described @29 and @31 is much better than the rigid (not confirmed in our synod–no communion for you!) rule that I believe has been the norm in a lot of congregations. I think such a rigid rule is simply laziness, and opposes our doctrine about the sacramental nature of communion.

    Where would I draw the cut off line? I am not sure I am qualified to say. I’m not a pastor, and I hesitate to make judgment calls in place of those called to the ministry, especially is specific cases near the grayer areas where judgment is needed. But I do think that a lot of Christians that would be excluded under rigid rules would be admitted if the time were taken to examine them.

    Dan, I guess I think that church membership is form, not substance. It is a customary practice that we adopt for the sake of order. The Church, the real Church exists wherever two or more gather around the Word and sacraments. Whether the organizational polity of a congregation or synod is Law as oposed to Gospel (as frank has said) I am not sure.

    But as far as being admitted to the Lord’s Table is concerned, I really don’t see much express, or even implied, support in the confessions for making formal membership a rigid determining factor for granting, or withholding (or even delaying) the forgiveness that a penitent Christian receives in the Lord’s Supper. Maybe it is a good place to begin the inquiry, but surely not the end of it.

  • Tom Hering

    I think we go wrong when we make Closed Communion about protecting us (fellowship, integrity, distinctiveness, whatever) rather than protecting the disbeliever and the unrepentant from themselves.

  • Tom Hering

    I think we go wrong when we make Closed Communion about protecting us (fellowship, integrity, distinctiveness, whatever) rather than protecting the disbeliever and the unrepentant from themselves.

  • JonSLC

    kerner @ 75: “But I do think that a lot of Christians that would be excluded under rigid rules would be admitted if the time were taken to examine them.”

    Yes! This is really the intent of closed Communion: “Please allow me, the pastor of this Lutheran congregation, to have time to talk with you.” That’s why I say before the distribution, “If you are not a member of our congregation, and you would like to join us for Communion in the future, please speak with me after the service.” I don’t mean to say to people, “You shall never commune here!” I would like time to talk with them and examine them, and therefore I ask them not to commune right now.

    You also wrote, “Dan, I guess I think that church membership is form, not substance. It is a customary practice that we adopt for the sake of order.” True enough. But your comment raises some questions in my mind. One of them is this: Do I, as pastor of the congregation someone is visiting, get an opinion as to what church membership means? To me, it means broad-based agreement in Biblical doctrine. I realize that to a visitor, church membership may not mean that. But since a person is a guest in my congregation, well, do I get to express what church membership means to me and my congregation when inviting people to commune? Or must I allow the visitor to define what church membership is, and on the basis of their opinion allow them to commune?

    (Thanks to you, kerner, and to Tom, Dan and others for a civil and informative thread, BTW.)

  • JonSLC

    kerner @ 75: “But I do think that a lot of Christians that would be excluded under rigid rules would be admitted if the time were taken to examine them.”

    Yes! This is really the intent of closed Communion: “Please allow me, the pastor of this Lutheran congregation, to have time to talk with you.” That’s why I say before the distribution, “If you are not a member of our congregation, and you would like to join us for Communion in the future, please speak with me after the service.” I don’t mean to say to people, “You shall never commune here!” I would like time to talk with them and examine them, and therefore I ask them not to commune right now.

    You also wrote, “Dan, I guess I think that church membership is form, not substance. It is a customary practice that we adopt for the sake of order.” True enough. But your comment raises some questions in my mind. One of them is this: Do I, as pastor of the congregation someone is visiting, get an opinion as to what church membership means? To me, it means broad-based agreement in Biblical doctrine. I realize that to a visitor, church membership may not mean that. But since a person is a guest in my congregation, well, do I get to express what church membership means to me and my congregation when inviting people to commune? Or must I allow the visitor to define what church membership is, and on the basis of their opinion allow them to commune?

    (Thanks to you, kerner, and to Tom, Dan and others for a civil and informative thread, BTW.)

  • Dan Kempin

    kerner, #75,

    “That a system such as the one Tom described @29 and @31 is much better than the rigid . . . rule that I believe has been the norm in a lot of congregations. I think such a rigid rule is simply laziness, and opposes our doctrine about the sacramental nature of communion”

    You have put your finger on it, there, though it is not the doctrine about the sacramental nature of communion, but the doctrine of the pastor and his role. It seems to me that these “rules and policies” have arisen to circumvent and/or replace the role of the pastor. And these rules and policies do not satisfy. They are, as you say, both lazy and rigid. (Or in the case of the “come if you agree” statements, lazy and contrived.)

    Yet the sought after solution seems to be that we need to find the RIGHT rule and the BEST policy, rather than trust the pastors to do what they are called to do. I note that in your response, you resonate most with Tom’s experience. Dare I point out that Tom’s “system” is the one in which the pastor was involved, both to encourage and to teach? His experience was not driven by the policy or membership, but by the ministry of an understanding pastor.

    So in a sense, then, I agree that simplistic membership and shorthand policies are not satisfying for rendering the judgment on whether a person ought to commune. You also agree that it is untenable to simply allow a person to decide for himself, for then a visiting Mormon would most certainly commune. Open communion would be in clear violation of scripture. So then.

    Is the manner in which closed communion is currently carried out the best expression of the principles involved? Well, it certainly does seem to have issues with perception. I am always one to admit that we can do better, and I think there has been “creep” in the discussion that has moved too far in the direction of synod and policy rather than soul care and pastoral judgment. It has become in process a debate about who should not commune rather than who should. Nevertheless, I believe the principles behind closed communion are firmly in accord with both the scriptures and the confessions.

  • Dan Kempin

    kerner, #75,

    “That a system such as the one Tom described @29 and @31 is much better than the rigid . . . rule that I believe has been the norm in a lot of congregations. I think such a rigid rule is simply laziness, and opposes our doctrine about the sacramental nature of communion”

    You have put your finger on it, there, though it is not the doctrine about the sacramental nature of communion, but the doctrine of the pastor and his role. It seems to me that these “rules and policies” have arisen to circumvent and/or replace the role of the pastor. And these rules and policies do not satisfy. They are, as you say, both lazy and rigid. (Or in the case of the “come if you agree” statements, lazy and contrived.)

    Yet the sought after solution seems to be that we need to find the RIGHT rule and the BEST policy, rather than trust the pastors to do what they are called to do. I note that in your response, you resonate most with Tom’s experience. Dare I point out that Tom’s “system” is the one in which the pastor was involved, both to encourage and to teach? His experience was not driven by the policy or membership, but by the ministry of an understanding pastor.

    So in a sense, then, I agree that simplistic membership and shorthand policies are not satisfying for rendering the judgment on whether a person ought to commune. You also agree that it is untenable to simply allow a person to decide for himself, for then a visiting Mormon would most certainly commune. Open communion would be in clear violation of scripture. So then.

    Is the manner in which closed communion is currently carried out the best expression of the principles involved? Well, it certainly does seem to have issues with perception. I am always one to admit that we can do better, and I think there has been “creep” in the discussion that has moved too far in the direction of synod and policy rather than soul care and pastoral judgment. It has become in process a debate about who should not commune rather than who should. Nevertheless, I believe the principles behind closed communion are firmly in accord with both the scriptures and the confessions.

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws, #74,

    +1. Thanks for the citations to back up my allusion.

  • Dan Kempin

    Fws, #74,

    +1. Thanks for the citations to back up my allusion.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@76), the doctrine of fellowship (closed communion included) isn’t about “protecting us”. It serves as a warning to those in error.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Tom (@76), the doctrine of fellowship (closed communion included) isn’t about “protecting us”. It serves as a warning to those in error.

  • kerner

    Dan @ 78:

    “<i<Dare I point out that Tom’s “system” is the one in which the pastor was involved, both to encourage and to teach?”

    Dare away. I agree with you.

    You also agree that it is untenable to simply allow a person to decide for himself, for then a visiting Mormon would most certainly commune.

    Correct.

    I think there has been “creep” in the discussion that has moved too far in the direction of synod and policy rather than soul care and pastoral judgment. It has become in process a debate about who should not commune rather than who should.

    Again, I agree.

    Look, I understand that “open communion” as practiced in the ELCA, as I understand it anyway, errs in the opposite direction, and possibly more gravely. Holy Communion is not a means of showing everyone how friendly we are as a congregation, like asking a visitor to have a donut with us at coffee hour. This attitude trivializes the sacrament.

    tODD:

    the doctrine of fellowship (closed communion included) isn’t about “protecting us”. It serves as a warning to those in error.

    Communion is a means of grace. Are my errors so grave that God’s grace is not for me? That goes beyond a “warning”, don’t you think?

    It’s been a long time since I belonged to a WELS congregation, but I’m not a big fan of the WELS doctrine of fellowship. What it boils down to is this:

    1. We refuse to allow our synod to be contaminated by error, but

    2. If there is any disagreement among us, one of the factions must be in error (since both sides can’t be right), so

    3. Our solution is to require conformity on all issues and disallow debate once a decision has been made by the majority.

    This system does not take into account the possibility that the majority, or the majority of decision makers, could be wrong. So when WELS commits an error, it permeates the whole synod and becomes very difficult to dislodge.

    LCMS goes the other direction(being very congregational in polity) and, while it appears much less orderly, when error arises, it is much easier to overcome.

  • kerner

    Dan @ 78:

    “<i<Dare I point out that Tom’s “system” is the one in which the pastor was involved, both to encourage and to teach?”

    Dare away. I agree with you.

    You also agree that it is untenable to simply allow a person to decide for himself, for then a visiting Mormon would most certainly commune.

    Correct.

    I think there has been “creep” in the discussion that has moved too far in the direction of synod and policy rather than soul care and pastoral judgment. It has become in process a debate about who should not commune rather than who should.

    Again, I agree.

    Look, I understand that “open communion” as practiced in the ELCA, as I understand it anyway, errs in the opposite direction, and possibly more gravely. Holy Communion is not a means of showing everyone how friendly we are as a congregation, like asking a visitor to have a donut with us at coffee hour. This attitude trivializes the sacrament.

    tODD:

    the doctrine of fellowship (closed communion included) isn’t about “protecting us”. It serves as a warning to those in error.

    Communion is a means of grace. Are my errors so grave that God’s grace is not for me? That goes beyond a “warning”, don’t you think?

    It’s been a long time since I belonged to a WELS congregation, but I’m not a big fan of the WELS doctrine of fellowship. What it boils down to is this:

    1. We refuse to allow our synod to be contaminated by error, but

    2. If there is any disagreement among us, one of the factions must be in error (since both sides can’t be right), so

    3. Our solution is to require conformity on all issues and disallow debate once a decision has been made by the majority.

    This system does not take into account the possibility that the majority, or the majority of decision makers, could be wrong. So when WELS commits an error, it permeates the whole synod and becomes very difficult to dislodge.

    LCMS goes the other direction(being very congregational in polity) and, while it appears much less orderly, when error arises, it is much easier to overcome.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner, you said (@81):

    Communion is a means of grace. Are my errors so grave that God’s grace is not for me?

    That appears to be an argument for why we should allow anyone to commune at our table, regardless of what they believe. Would you agree? If not, why?

    Anyhow, your question seems to have missed the context of this question. Are your errors so grave that you should be denied Communion? Well, “so grave” isn’t the right metric, but if you are unrepentant, then your pastor may very well fence you from your own church’s table. As a call to repentance. I pray this is not the case for you. I pray that you do avail yourself of Communion at your own church as often as possible.

    But when you visit my church, to which you do not belong, and with which you do not agree (i.e. are not in fellowship with), the question isn’t “Should Kerner be denied Communion?” but “Should Kerner worship with us as if we have no differences on Scriptural matters? Should we pretend those differences are not there or do not matter?”

    I have yet to meet a person that doesn’t understand and practice the doctrine of fellowship at some level. But most people feel uncomfortable saying that you have to agree in all things scriptural, so they try to draw their lines somewhere in the middle. But I suspect most people are not able to explain why they draw their lines where they do.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner, you said (@81):

    Communion is a means of grace. Are my errors so grave that God’s grace is not for me?

    That appears to be an argument for why we should allow anyone to commune at our table, regardless of what they believe. Would you agree? If not, why?

    Anyhow, your question seems to have missed the context of this question. Are your errors so grave that you should be denied Communion? Well, “so grave” isn’t the right metric, but if you are unrepentant, then your pastor may very well fence you from your own church’s table. As a call to repentance. I pray this is not the case for you. I pray that you do avail yourself of Communion at your own church as often as possible.

    But when you visit my church, to which you do not belong, and with which you do not agree (i.e. are not in fellowship with), the question isn’t “Should Kerner be denied Communion?” but “Should Kerner worship with us as if we have no differences on Scriptural matters? Should we pretend those differences are not there or do not matter?”

    I have yet to meet a person that doesn’t understand and practice the doctrine of fellowship at some level. But most people feel uncomfortable saying that you have to agree in all things scriptural, so they try to draw their lines somewhere in the middle. But I suspect most people are not able to explain why they draw their lines where they do.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As to your “boiling down” of what WELS supposedly believes, Kerner (@81):

    1. We refuse to allow our synod to be contaminated by error

    I suppose if you want to be uncharitable about it, you could say that. Because then it becomes only about protecting ourselves. But, again, consider a situation in which you would use the doctrine of fellowship to refuse to worship in some way with someone in error. Would you do so to send a warning to that person, or would it just be about keeping your garments glistening white? Our sinful natures will drive us to the latter, no matter who we are, but do you deny that the former is not also there?

    2. If there is any disagreement among us, one of the factions must be in error (since both sides can’t be right)

    So, do you disagree with this point? Because it just seems true to me. Unless you reject absolute truth.

    3. Our solution is to require conformity on all issues and disallow debate once a decision has been made by the majority.

    Those words appear to betray some baggage, because that’s definitely not how I see things. “All issues”? Really? Pretty sure the doctrine of fellowship is intentionally limited to God’s Word. We believe in adiaphora, you know.

    And you think that democracy is the sole norm and guide for us in the WELS? Really?

    I’m pretty sure my parents, who left their LCMS church, could tell you a story or two about the difficulties of “dislodging” or “overcoming” the errors made by “the majority of decision makers”. The fact that this occurred at the church level, not the synod one, does that make a difference? And am I to believe that each LCMS congregation decides for itself what God’s Word teaches? That there is no synodical declaration of, um, what the synod believes?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As to your “boiling down” of what WELS supposedly believes, Kerner (@81):

    1. We refuse to allow our synod to be contaminated by error

    I suppose if you want to be uncharitable about it, you could say that. Because then it becomes only about protecting ourselves. But, again, consider a situation in which you would use the doctrine of fellowship to refuse to worship in some way with someone in error. Would you do so to send a warning to that person, or would it just be about keeping your garments glistening white? Our sinful natures will drive us to the latter, no matter who we are, but do you deny that the former is not also there?

    2. If there is any disagreement among us, one of the factions must be in error (since both sides can’t be right)

    So, do you disagree with this point? Because it just seems true to me. Unless you reject absolute truth.

    3. Our solution is to require conformity on all issues and disallow debate once a decision has been made by the majority.

    Those words appear to betray some baggage, because that’s definitely not how I see things. “All issues”? Really? Pretty sure the doctrine of fellowship is intentionally limited to God’s Word. We believe in adiaphora, you know.

    And you think that democracy is the sole norm and guide for us in the WELS? Really?

    I’m pretty sure my parents, who left their LCMS church, could tell you a story or two about the difficulties of “dislodging” or “overcoming” the errors made by “the majority of decision makers”. The fact that this occurred at the church level, not the synod one, does that make a difference? And am I to believe that each LCMS congregation decides for itself what God’s Word teaches? That there is no synodical declaration of, um, what the synod believes?

  • kerner

    tODD:

    And you think that democracy is the sole norm and guide for us in the WELS? Really?

    No, but I think your norm and guide is unanymity. WELS suffers from the fallacy : “Since we all say so, it must be true.”

    2. If there is any disagreement among us, one of the factions must be in error (since both sides can’t be right)

    So, do you disagree with this point? Because it just seems true to me. Unless you reject absolute truth.

    Of couse its true, but like many dangerous statements, it isn’t the whole truth. There are really three possibilities.

    1. We are all correct.
    2. Some of us are correct and some of us are not,

    and the one that the WELS ignores:

    3. We are all incorrect.

    In any institution governed by fallen human beings, no matter how well intended, examples of #3 are inevitable. But in a system that allows for no dissent, the inevitable errors become almost impossible to correct once adopted.

    Why? Well, suppose WELS made a mistake, and was in doctrinal error about something. For someone inside WELS to point out the error would require a dissenter to start a debate. But if dissent is not allowed, then the debate will likely never start, or if the dissenter is in the minority, he may be quickly removed from WELS. The only way for error to be corrected is if the error becomes manifest to everyone all at once, which is difficult and unlikely.

    Therefore, while the WELS position may prevent error from infecting WELS in many cases, once error has crept in, the WELS need to be always unanymous institutionalizes error in a way that makes errors almost impossible to dislodge.

  • kerner

    tODD:

    And you think that democracy is the sole norm and guide for us in the WELS? Really?

    No, but I think your norm and guide is unanymity. WELS suffers from the fallacy : “Since we all say so, it must be true.”

    2. If there is any disagreement among us, one of the factions must be in error (since both sides can’t be right)

    So, do you disagree with this point? Because it just seems true to me. Unless you reject absolute truth.

    Of couse its true, but like many dangerous statements, it isn’t the whole truth. There are really three possibilities.

    1. We are all correct.
    2. Some of us are correct and some of us are not,

    and the one that the WELS ignores:

    3. We are all incorrect.

    In any institution governed by fallen human beings, no matter how well intended, examples of #3 are inevitable. But in a system that allows for no dissent, the inevitable errors become almost impossible to correct once adopted.

    Why? Well, suppose WELS made a mistake, and was in doctrinal error about something. For someone inside WELS to point out the error would require a dissenter to start a debate. But if dissent is not allowed, then the debate will likely never start, or if the dissenter is in the minority, he may be quickly removed from WELS. The only way for error to be corrected is if the error becomes manifest to everyone all at once, which is difficult and unlikely.

    Therefore, while the WELS position may prevent error from infecting WELS in many cases, once error has crept in, the WELS need to be always unanymous institutionalizes error in a way that makes errors almost impossible to dislodge.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@84), are you going to give me a hint as to what’s driving your discussion here at some point? Your comments, while rather accusatory, are equally vague. Am I in spiritual danger in my church? If so, are you going to tell me in what way, at some point? Or is this connected to something in your past that you’ve experienced? Suffice it to say that your description of my church hardly mirrors my own experience in it over the past decade.

    No, but I think your norm and guide is unanymity. WELS suffers from the fallacy : “Since we all say so, it must be true.”

    I still think you’re missing the point. “Unanimity” … according to what? For its own sake? In what God’s Word tells us?

    WELS doesn’t hold to any position simply because men agree on it. We hold to it because God’s Word tells us so. Or are you also criticizing the Lutheran Confessions with your line of reasoning? They are, after all, but the agreement of men. Oh, and you know, a faithful exposition of God’s Word. But that doesn’t seem to matter much to your line of accusations. Might as well ding everyone who signed the Formula of Concord, too.

    In any institution governed by fallen human beings, no matter how well intended, examples of #3 [We are all incorrect] are inevitable.

    Again, are you, at some point going to give me an actual example, or is this just a rhetorical exercise for you?

    There is also some danger in your line of thinking there. One could easily be mistaken in thinking that you are arguing that the Church, comprised as it is of “fallen human beings”, is incapable of ever knowing the full truth. That its doctrine will always be “incorrect” at some point. Is that what you’re arguing?

    But in a system that allows for no dissent, the inevitable errors become almost impossible to correct once adopted.

    Don’t you think you’re pouring it on a bit thick here? “Allows for no dissent”? Okay, fine, if we recognize that that applies only to interpretation of Scripture. But is there a church that doesn’t enforce this at some level? Does your church allow for dissent when it comes to understandings of the Lord’s Supper? The nature of the Trinity? And so on? Your descriptions here are so ridiculously broad-brush that I’d almost think that there was never any discussion whatsoever in my church, while in yours, anything goes. You’re not Unitarian, are you?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@84), are you going to give me a hint as to what’s driving your discussion here at some point? Your comments, while rather accusatory, are equally vague. Am I in spiritual danger in my church? If so, are you going to tell me in what way, at some point? Or is this connected to something in your past that you’ve experienced? Suffice it to say that your description of my church hardly mirrors my own experience in it over the past decade.

    No, but I think your norm and guide is unanymity. WELS suffers from the fallacy : “Since we all say so, it must be true.”

    I still think you’re missing the point. “Unanimity” … according to what? For its own sake? In what God’s Word tells us?

    WELS doesn’t hold to any position simply because men agree on it. We hold to it because God’s Word tells us so. Or are you also criticizing the Lutheran Confessions with your line of reasoning? They are, after all, but the agreement of men. Oh, and you know, a faithful exposition of God’s Word. But that doesn’t seem to matter much to your line of accusations. Might as well ding everyone who signed the Formula of Concord, too.

    In any institution governed by fallen human beings, no matter how well intended, examples of #3 [We are all incorrect] are inevitable.

    Again, are you, at some point going to give me an actual example, or is this just a rhetorical exercise for you?

    There is also some danger in your line of thinking there. One could easily be mistaken in thinking that you are arguing that the Church, comprised as it is of “fallen human beings”, is incapable of ever knowing the full truth. That its doctrine will always be “incorrect” at some point. Is that what you’re arguing?

    But in a system that allows for no dissent, the inevitable errors become almost impossible to correct once adopted.

    Don’t you think you’re pouring it on a bit thick here? “Allows for no dissent”? Okay, fine, if we recognize that that applies only to interpretation of Scripture. But is there a church that doesn’t enforce this at some level? Does your church allow for dissent when it comes to understandings of the Lord’s Supper? The nature of the Trinity? And so on? Your descriptions here are so ridiculously broad-brush that I’d almost think that there was never any discussion whatsoever in my church, while in yours, anything goes. You’re not Unitarian, are you?

  • fws

    Kerner,

    In case you havent gotten the memo, our Todd here seems to be pretty independent in his thinking. and he is a member of a WELS congregation.

    I think you do actually have a valid point to make, but I agree with Todd that you are maybe over generalizing. And the WELS is changing pretty fast. Maybe way toooo fast in some ways.

    There are some unfortunate developments in the WELS mostly centered around church growth. It has caused some to respectfully do what they can to debate things in a very humble way. You might want to check out a site called Intrepid Lutherans.

    And you are right. I see the men and women over at Intrepid Lutherans trying to do something that warms my heart. There is alot of good in the WELS and they have stuff going on that threatens all that. And alot of that history you mention, which is not entirely wrong, has left those in the WELS sort of at a loss to know how to combat error when it arises.

    But men and women like Todd are on it. And I personally know alot of the men and women trying their best to make things right. They are far from the mentality you describe.

    I am always impressed at the ability of our Lutheran brothers in the WELS to reflect and repent about alot of things. And of course there are those who are to proud to do that. And we have some of that in each of us.’

    We need to pray for the WELS and those in the LCMS and also those in the ELCA that the holy gospel might be preserved among us.

  • fws

    Kerner,

    In case you havent gotten the memo, our Todd here seems to be pretty independent in his thinking. and he is a member of a WELS congregation.

    I think you do actually have a valid point to make, but I agree with Todd that you are maybe over generalizing. And the WELS is changing pretty fast. Maybe way toooo fast in some ways.

    There are some unfortunate developments in the WELS mostly centered around church growth. It has caused some to respectfully do what they can to debate things in a very humble way. You might want to check out a site called Intrepid Lutherans.

    And you are right. I see the men and women over at Intrepid Lutherans trying to do something that warms my heart. There is alot of good in the WELS and they have stuff going on that threatens all that. And alot of that history you mention, which is not entirely wrong, has left those in the WELS sort of at a loss to know how to combat error when it arises.

    But men and women like Todd are on it. And I personally know alot of the men and women trying their best to make things right. They are far from the mentality you describe.

    I am always impressed at the ability of our Lutheran brothers in the WELS to reflect and repent about alot of things. And of course there are those who are to proud to do that. And we have some of that in each of us.’

    We need to pray for the WELS and those in the LCMS and also those in the ELCA that the holy gospel might be preserved among us.

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 80, are you specifically referring to a WELS doctrine of fellowship? Okay, but I was speaking generally @ 76. All I’ve ever heard about a WELS doctrine of fellowship is that you won’t even say a dinner prayer with non-WELS Christians. Information I’ve stored in my “Whatever” file. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    Todd @ 80, are you specifically referring to a WELS doctrine of fellowship? Okay, but I was speaking generally @ 76. All I’ve ever heard about a WELS doctrine of fellowship is that you won’t even say a dinner prayer with non-WELS Christians. Information I’ve stored in my “Whatever” file. :-)

  • kerner

    tODD, I’m not trying to identify every single error the WELS has ever made, though I am pretty sure I could find a few if I put my mind to it. The particular error I am talking about now is the error of believing that a synod can exist without ever making an error. I grant you that it has been about 35 years since I have been in WELS, but my recollection is that I heard a lot of prayers to the effect of:

    “Lord, we thank thee that we in the WELS are not as other men. Other men make doctrinal errors (like that non-WELS publican over there), but here in the WELS, we never do. Thank you Lord for our perfect doctrinal record. And how do we know we are perfect in our understanding of your truth, Lord? We uninamously agree that we are, that’s how we know.”

    Ok, maybe there was a little hyperbole there, but not much.

    Look, tODD, I’m not trying to say the WELS is a bad place to be. WELS theologians make every attempt to base their doctrine on the Bible and the Book of Concord, (putting the best coinstruction on things) I’m sure. If your synod’s heart is in that particular right place, it must be a great help in avoiding doctrinal errors a lot of the time. But, no, I don’t believe any human organization, however well intended, ever can be, or ever has been, 100% right about all doctrinal matters 100% of the time.

    Now, I do think that the people who wrote and assembled the Book of Concord were 100% right when they did those things. But I don’t think that they were 100% per cent right about every doctrinal thing they ever said or did. I mean, it has been regularly pointed out on this blog that Martin Luther himself preached some real error in his lifetime. So let’s just say I don’t have any more confidence in WELS, sitting in convention, to be doctrinally correct more consistently that Luther was.

    All I’m saying is that this illusion of doctrinal infallibility that WELS has concocted is a problem for you. It leads you to tell the rest of us things like the reason you won’t, say, thank God with any of us before a meal is your way of “lovingly warning us of our errors”, which anyone else would recognize as utter crock.

  • kerner

    tODD, I’m not trying to identify every single error the WELS has ever made, though I am pretty sure I could find a few if I put my mind to it. The particular error I am talking about now is the error of believing that a synod can exist without ever making an error. I grant you that it has been about 35 years since I have been in WELS, but my recollection is that I heard a lot of prayers to the effect of:

    “Lord, we thank thee that we in the WELS are not as other men. Other men make doctrinal errors (like that non-WELS publican over there), but here in the WELS, we never do. Thank you Lord for our perfect doctrinal record. And how do we know we are perfect in our understanding of your truth, Lord? We uninamously agree that we are, that’s how we know.”

    Ok, maybe there was a little hyperbole there, but not much.

    Look, tODD, I’m not trying to say the WELS is a bad place to be. WELS theologians make every attempt to base their doctrine on the Bible and the Book of Concord, (putting the best coinstruction on things) I’m sure. If your synod’s heart is in that particular right place, it must be a great help in avoiding doctrinal errors a lot of the time. But, no, I don’t believe any human organization, however well intended, ever can be, or ever has been, 100% right about all doctrinal matters 100% of the time.

    Now, I do think that the people who wrote and assembled the Book of Concord were 100% right when they did those things. But I don’t think that they were 100% per cent right about every doctrinal thing they ever said or did. I mean, it has been regularly pointed out on this blog that Martin Luther himself preached some real error in his lifetime. So let’s just say I don’t have any more confidence in WELS, sitting in convention, to be doctrinally correct more consistently that Luther was.

    All I’m saying is that this illusion of doctrinal infallibility that WELS has concocted is a problem for you. It leads you to tell the rest of us things like the reason you won’t, say, thank God with any of us before a meal is your way of “lovingly warning us of our errors”, which anyone else would recognize as utter crock.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@88) said:

    I’m not trying to identify every single error the WELS has ever made…

    You know, I’d settle for you actually identifying one at this point. It is maddening the way you insist on keeping this in the hypothetical.

    The particular error I am talking about now is the error of believing that a synod can exist without ever making an error.

    Which, as a description, is erroneous itself. You seem to insist, as well, on conflating any errors we may make as humans in putting our doctrine into practice — which errors will be numerous and, ultimately, unavoidable due to our sinful nature — and any errors in our doctrine.

    Look, tODD, I’m not trying to say the WELS is a bad place to be.

    Oh, no, of course not. You’re just saying that we’re all legalistic pharisees only looking out for ourselves. But, you know, other than that, the coffee’s pretty good. … Criminy.

    But, no, I don’t believe any human organization, however well intended, ever can be, or ever has been, 100% right about all doctrinal matters 100% of the time. Now, I do think that the people who wrote and assembled the Book of Concord were 100% right when they did those things.

    Um. What? See, this is an example of what I was talking about.

    But I don’t think that they were 100% per cent right about every doctrinal thing they ever said or did. I mean, it has been regularly pointed out on this blog that Martin Luther himself preached some real error in his lifetime.

    See? You’re saying that it’s entirely possible for people to compose a rather thick book that is 100% correct when it comes to doctrine. Oh, but the WELS can’t do that. Just … historical Lutherans?

    Again, I’m going to go back to my impression that you are mistaken as to what the WELS insists there be unity on. Again, it is on doctrine. Not on implementation of doctrine. Feel free to show me that I am wrong. But that is my understanding. For instance, I may wrongly apply Law when I should apply Gospel, but that doesn’t negate the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. It just means I messed up their use.

    You tell me that it’s possible for a group of men to get doctrine 100% right. And then you tell me it’s impossible for a group of men to do it. All depends on whether we’re talking about the BoC (to which you, I assume, subscribe) or the wELS (to which you don’t). Doesn’t that seem like a convenient double-standard for you?

    So let’s just say I don’t have any more confidence in WELS, sitting in convention, to be doctrinally correct more consistently that Luther was.

    But do you have confidence that the doctrine of the WELS can be as doctrinally correct as the Book of Concord? Why are you comparing a body’s doctrine to the actions of a man? Apples to apples, please. I don’t have any confidence that my pastor will be 100% perfect in his implementation of doctrine any more than Luther was. But I believe that my church’s doctrine is as correct as the Book of Concord on which it is based (and that, in turn, on God’s Word).

    All I’m saying is that this illusion of doctrinal infallibility that WELS has concocted is a problem for you.

    Then, to use your logic, the illusion of doctrinal infallibility that you have in the Book of Concord is a problem for you. And for all who subscribe to the BoC.

    It leads you to tell the rest of us things like the reason you won’t, say, thank God with any of us before a meal is your way of “lovingly warning us of our errors”, which anyone else would recognize as utter crock.

    You know, quite frankly, if you want to convince me that you’re correcting me out of concern for my spiritual well-being, and not because of some baggage you carry with the WELS, you’re doing a poor job of it.

    Is there someone you wouldn’t pray with? Who? Why? Keep in mind, if there is, I’m going to accuse you of not caring about that person, of being a legalistic pharisee, and of being full of yourself.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Kerner (@88) said:

    I’m not trying to identify every single error the WELS has ever made…

    You know, I’d settle for you actually identifying one at this point. It is maddening the way you insist on keeping this in the hypothetical.

    The particular error I am talking about now is the error of believing that a synod can exist without ever making an error.

    Which, as a description, is erroneous itself. You seem to insist, as well, on conflating any errors we may make as humans in putting our doctrine into practice — which errors will be numerous and, ultimately, unavoidable due to our sinful nature — and any errors in our doctrine.

    Look, tODD, I’m not trying to say the WELS is a bad place to be.

    Oh, no, of course not. You’re just saying that we’re all legalistic pharisees only looking out for ourselves. But, you know, other than that, the coffee’s pretty good. … Criminy.

    But, no, I don’t believe any human organization, however well intended, ever can be, or ever has been, 100% right about all doctrinal matters 100% of the time. Now, I do think that the people who wrote and assembled the Book of Concord were 100% right when they did those things.

    Um. What? See, this is an example of what I was talking about.

    But I don’t think that they were 100% per cent right about every doctrinal thing they ever said or did. I mean, it has been regularly pointed out on this blog that Martin Luther himself preached some real error in his lifetime.

    See? You’re saying that it’s entirely possible for people to compose a rather thick book that is 100% correct when it comes to doctrine. Oh, but the WELS can’t do that. Just … historical Lutherans?

    Again, I’m going to go back to my impression that you are mistaken as to what the WELS insists there be unity on. Again, it is on doctrine. Not on implementation of doctrine. Feel free to show me that I am wrong. But that is my understanding. For instance, I may wrongly apply Law when I should apply Gospel, but that doesn’t negate the proper distinction between Law and Gospel. It just means I messed up their use.

    You tell me that it’s possible for a group of men to get doctrine 100% right. And then you tell me it’s impossible for a group of men to do it. All depends on whether we’re talking about the BoC (to which you, I assume, subscribe) or the wELS (to which you don’t). Doesn’t that seem like a convenient double-standard for you?

    So let’s just say I don’t have any more confidence in WELS, sitting in convention, to be doctrinally correct more consistently that Luther was.

    But do you have confidence that the doctrine of the WELS can be as doctrinally correct as the Book of Concord? Why are you comparing a body’s doctrine to the actions of a man? Apples to apples, please. I don’t have any confidence that my pastor will be 100% perfect in his implementation of doctrine any more than Luther was. But I believe that my church’s doctrine is as correct as the Book of Concord on which it is based (and that, in turn, on God’s Word).

    All I’m saying is that this illusion of doctrinal infallibility that WELS has concocted is a problem for you.

    Then, to use your logic, the illusion of doctrinal infallibility that you have in the Book of Concord is a problem for you. And for all who subscribe to the BoC.

    It leads you to tell the rest of us things like the reason you won’t, say, thank God with any of us before a meal is your way of “lovingly warning us of our errors”, which anyone else would recognize as utter crock.

    You know, quite frankly, if you want to convince me that you’re correcting me out of concern for my spiritual well-being, and not because of some baggage you carry with the WELS, you’re doing a poor job of it.

    Is there someone you wouldn’t pray with? Who? Why? Keep in mind, if there is, I’m going to accuse you of not caring about that person, of being a legalistic pharisee, and of being full of yourself.

  • larry

    Frank,

    A little late to the discussion but what you pointed out many posts ago via the confessions relating the issue to confession/absolution and closed communion is brilliant! What I’m about to say is not ill of pastors but “us” as a confessing group caught up in the modern spirit. If we practiced more hands on pastoral care of those under one’s care and if likewise the laity revered more conf./abs. this would be more of a mute point. There’s so much in what you said! I saw a connection here I didn’t see before, not that unlikely having not been raised Lutheran, wasn’t on my old baptist/reformed radar.

    I mean to say this: (and this may be in part me approaching it with Calvinistic demons still in my own brain per se) We always approach CC from the “what about the visitor – who ever and from whatever denomination fill in the blank – is coming by”. Usually some ubiquitous straw man drawn up, visitor X from the PCA or SB church. But in reality this goes to the pastor/congregation local issue, the every week members. I.e. in this way CC wrongly sounds the emphasis on who outside of our confession visiting. However, IF Conf./Abs. were more practiced, encouraged actively by the pastor, and hence taken truly by the congregants, then CC would be taken more in the proper way. The local shepherd KNOWS his flock, or should, and the should in turn act reciprocal and KNOW their pastor dearly as the man of God passing out the treasures of Christ. The less each know each other the less the office of pastor is, it becomes almost if we might borrow a word “commercial like” or worse “American” if you will. We Americans don’t like kings and hence have little to no respect for the whole idea, ours is a foreign idea to the history of the world. So offices have less “respect” as offices as a whole in America, if you don’t like your leader X, just throw the bum out next election. This is really a manifest form of self rule taken to its extreme. There is a sense in which American “freedom” mimics “fallen freedom” and the concept of a “free will” or “I’ll be my own god thank you very much”. Thus, over time the office of pastor via the spirit of our age becomes a de facto “elected” person and only has that much authority. This hurts both Conf./Abs. and the sacrament (dare I take them as God’s mouth speaking if my pastor is so easily “just another guy elected” more or less).

    Back to CC, if Conf./Abs. were locally more taught, encouraged and taken the issue of CC would, in a lot of aspects take care of itself. It’s not “passing a test” examination, but do you really believe that I speak absolution to you as the very mouth of God? It’s connected directly to this sacrament in particular! Do you really real time want to confess your sins to the Lord and thus truly receive forgiveness for them. NOT because God has altered His mindset on your forgiveness, “He is faithful even when we are unfaithful”, but do you REALLY know you are STILL palpably a sinner and NOT INCLINED to believe God forgives you in spite of all the ‘formularies’ that answers “justification by faith alone” (the REAL “I’m getting the test question right” falsehood), and thus really need to confess and HEAR absolution from God to/for you (i.e. the Gospel) again. To not want this in Conf./Abs. or any sacrament is to in reality grow weary of the Gospel and be surreptitiously falling BACK into self righteousness (though know one would self recognize this!).

    Opening more and more the communion doors really is to slowly erode away and loose the Gospel, not the way most think but a going away from a life lived in real repentance for real sins as opposed to a faked repentance for faked sins (Protestant Romanism).

    Doing away with the means via the Gnostic doorway always leads to doing away with the Gospel and as such self righteousness, called “true Christian religion”, always necessarily follows.

  • larry

    Frank,

    A little late to the discussion but what you pointed out many posts ago via the confessions relating the issue to confession/absolution and closed communion is brilliant! What I’m about to say is not ill of pastors but “us” as a confessing group caught up in the modern spirit. If we practiced more hands on pastoral care of those under one’s care and if likewise the laity revered more conf./abs. this would be more of a mute point. There’s so much in what you said! I saw a connection here I didn’t see before, not that unlikely having not been raised Lutheran, wasn’t on my old baptist/reformed radar.

    I mean to say this: (and this may be in part me approaching it with Calvinistic demons still in my own brain per se) We always approach CC from the “what about the visitor – who ever and from whatever denomination fill in the blank – is coming by”. Usually some ubiquitous straw man drawn up, visitor X from the PCA or SB church. But in reality this goes to the pastor/congregation local issue, the every week members. I.e. in this way CC wrongly sounds the emphasis on who outside of our confession visiting. However, IF Conf./Abs. were more practiced, encouraged actively by the pastor, and hence taken truly by the congregants, then CC would be taken more in the proper way. The local shepherd KNOWS his flock, or should, and the should in turn act reciprocal and KNOW their pastor dearly as the man of God passing out the treasures of Christ. The less each know each other the less the office of pastor is, it becomes almost if we might borrow a word “commercial like” or worse “American” if you will. We Americans don’t like kings and hence have little to no respect for the whole idea, ours is a foreign idea to the history of the world. So offices have less “respect” as offices as a whole in America, if you don’t like your leader X, just throw the bum out next election. This is really a manifest form of self rule taken to its extreme. There is a sense in which American “freedom” mimics “fallen freedom” and the concept of a “free will” or “I’ll be my own god thank you very much”. Thus, over time the office of pastor via the spirit of our age becomes a de facto “elected” person and only has that much authority. This hurts both Conf./Abs. and the sacrament (dare I take them as God’s mouth speaking if my pastor is so easily “just another guy elected” more or less).

    Back to CC, if Conf./Abs. were locally more taught, encouraged and taken the issue of CC would, in a lot of aspects take care of itself. It’s not “passing a test” examination, but do you really believe that I speak absolution to you as the very mouth of God? It’s connected directly to this sacrament in particular! Do you really real time want to confess your sins to the Lord and thus truly receive forgiveness for them. NOT because God has altered His mindset on your forgiveness, “He is faithful even when we are unfaithful”, but do you REALLY know you are STILL palpably a sinner and NOT INCLINED to believe God forgives you in spite of all the ‘formularies’ that answers “justification by faith alone” (the REAL “I’m getting the test question right” falsehood), and thus really need to confess and HEAR absolution from God to/for you (i.e. the Gospel) again. To not want this in Conf./Abs. or any sacrament is to in reality grow weary of the Gospel and be surreptitiously falling BACK into self righteousness (though know one would self recognize this!).

    Opening more and more the communion doors really is to slowly erode away and loose the Gospel, not the way most think but a going away from a life lived in real repentance for real sins as opposed to a faked repentance for faked sins (Protestant Romanism).

    Doing away with the means via the Gnostic doorway always leads to doing away with the Gospel and as such self righteousness, called “true Christian religion”, always necessarily follows.

  • larry

    Back to Dr. Veith’s question: I’ve listed a person to person, real people I first hand know what happened list of “responses” to CC. I left the names out on purpose but these are real folks, each number represents a person:
    1. Background: Baptist/SB (arminian leaning baptist) visiting LCMS CC: No offense whatsoever understood why (commented, “they really do preach the Gospel through the entire service). Come from churches that practiced it.
    2. Background: Baptist/SB visiting/minister (arminian leaning baptist) LCMS CC: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    3. Background: Baptist/SB/minister (sharp calvinist leaning baptist) discussed CC with, in particular Lutheran: No offense whatsoever understood why.
    4. Background: Baptist/SB (arminian leaning baptist) discussed CC with, in particular Lutheran: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    5. Background: Baptist/SB/minister (ex-calvinist leaning leans hard as much as can Lutheran baptist) discussed CC with, in particular Lutheran: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    6. Background: Methodist/SB (no particular leaning baptist) discussed CC in Lutheran church: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    7. Background: Methodist/SB (no particular leaning non-practicing baptist) discussed CC in Lutheran church: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.

    My wife and mine experience was this: We never were offended by CC in any venue. However, and I think this gets back to Dan’s point above, the only time it bothered us is when we started seeing “200 proof Gospel” via the WHI and then moved Lutheran. Before that, we never considered CC bad at all and right to do. It was not so much offensive when we started the move but more an awakening “shock” that confessions heretofore confessed (SB F&M then WCF) actually deny Christ in parts and summary (leaven). One always wanted to resolve all these to all being 200 proof Gospel, the desire for unity is always there, but one cannot sacrifice the Word for it else one actually looses the Gospel. Hence the Word forms the unity, i.e. doctrine, not the unity the Word.

  • larry

    Back to Dr. Veith’s question: I’ve listed a person to person, real people I first hand know what happened list of “responses” to CC. I left the names out on purpose but these are real folks, each number represents a person:
    1. Background: Baptist/SB (arminian leaning baptist) visiting LCMS CC: No offense whatsoever understood why (commented, “they really do preach the Gospel through the entire service). Come from churches that practiced it.
    2. Background: Baptist/SB visiting/minister (arminian leaning baptist) LCMS CC: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    3. Background: Baptist/SB/minister (sharp calvinist leaning baptist) discussed CC with, in particular Lutheran: No offense whatsoever understood why.
    4. Background: Baptist/SB (arminian leaning baptist) discussed CC with, in particular Lutheran: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    5. Background: Baptist/SB/minister (ex-calvinist leaning leans hard as much as can Lutheran baptist) discussed CC with, in particular Lutheran: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    6. Background: Methodist/SB (no particular leaning baptist) discussed CC in Lutheran church: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.
    7. Background: Methodist/SB (no particular leaning non-practicing baptist) discussed CC in Lutheran church: No offense whatsoever understood why. Come from churches that practiced it.

    My wife and mine experience was this: We never were offended by CC in any venue. However, and I think this gets back to Dan’s point above, the only time it bothered us is when we started seeing “200 proof Gospel” via the WHI and then moved Lutheran. Before that, we never considered CC bad at all and right to do. It was not so much offensive when we started the move but more an awakening “shock” that confessions heretofore confessed (SB F&M then WCF) actually deny Christ in parts and summary (leaven). One always wanted to resolve all these to all being 200 proof Gospel, the desire for unity is always there, but one cannot sacrifice the Word for it else one actually looses the Gospel. Hence the Word forms the unity, i.e. doctrine, not the unity the Word.


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