Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Markingsmass

Today marks the 109th birthday of Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-61), Swedish statesman and the second secretary-general of the United Nations (1953-61). After teaching at Stockholm University, he was secretary of the Bank of Sweden (1935) and later its chairman (1941-8). He then served as the Swedish foreign minister (1951-3). Given how matters have deteriorated in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East, it is worth remembering that Hammarskjöld helped to set up the Emergency Force in Sinai and Gaza in 1956 and worked tirelessly for reconciliation in the Middle East. He died in an airplane crash in Rhodesia (Zambia), while on a mission to resolve a crisis in the Congo. He was posthumously awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

After his death, a book containing his personal reflections was discovered in his house in New York. It was published as Markings in 1963. The reflections date from 1925, when he was 20 years old. The final entries are from the year of his death. The title in the original Swedish refers to “waymarks,” guideposts or cairns which hikers use to mark their routes. The book thus marks the spiritual journey of this extraordinary individual. It contains poems (many of them in the style of haiku), prayers, quotations, maxims, jottings and other musings. The book has been described as "the noblest self-disclosure of spiritual struggle and triumph, perhaps the greatest testament of personal faith written… in the heat of professional life and amidst the most exacting responsibilities for world peace and order" (Henry P. Van Dusen). In his foreword to Markings, W. H. Auden quotes Hammarskjöld: "In our age, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action."  In his 2013 biography, Hammarskjold: a Life, Roger Lipsey describes the relationship between his subject’s vocation as a peacemaker and his understanding of being a disciple of Jesus as “engaged spirituality.”

For more information, see www.dag-hammarskjold.com 

Earlier this year, an LCMS pastor who is serving in Berkeley, California, sent me a liturgy he has written that makes use of Hammarskjöld’s "markings." The pastor, Robert O’Sullivan, wrote, “After looking at your blog, I thought this would interest you.” It did and still does.

Pr. O’Sullivan has been a part time pastor of Bethlehem Lutheran in Berkeley for twenty years, while also being a high-school English and Social Studies teacher in Oakland most of those years. He completed his undergraduate and theological education in the 1960’s, but found himself working as a radio/tv journalist (in the U.S. and Nigeria), legislative aide in the California Assembly, political consultant, press representative, speech and humor writer, and a researcher/editor at the University of California, Berkeley for the next twenty plus years. In his mid-forties, he decided to become a high-school teacher and soon thereafter BLC called him to be its “bi-vocational pastor.”

According to Pr. O’Sullivan:

Markingsmass brings together Hammarskjöld’s words in dialogue with the liturgy of the Western mass, the basic communion service familiar to Roman Catholics, Episcopalians/Anglicans and Lutherans. Although he did not have words in response to all the basic elements of the mass, those that fit have been placed together here in the usual order in this liturgy. In one case, the Song of Praise is not a traditional Gloria but, we think, clearly praises a One who brings beauty, peace and joy, while calling us to follow Him.

It should be noted that the liturgy, like the book, uses the archaic English terms “thee, thy, thine and thou.” So does Markings, one of whose translators (the one who did not know Swedish!) was the British poet, W.H. Auden, a friend of the diplomat. These archaic English forms, familiar still to those who know King James and Shakespearean English, are akin to the Swedish and German intimate second person familiar, which does not exist in modern English. This usage here is most appropriate, because the diarist, an accomplished linguist who was fluent in four languages, had a fondness for older beautiful expressions (he often had a 1762 Anglican Book of Common Prayer, noted for its elegantly eloquent translation of the Book of Psalms, with him, as well as an archaic French version of St. Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ). At the time of his death he was working on a translation of Martin Buber’s, I and Thou. The “thou” cognates suggest an intimacy and reverence which cannot be equaled by “you” usages.

Although one of the 20th century’s most prominent Christian mystics, Hammarskjöld had no formal training in theology. His earned degrees were in linguistics, literature, history, economics, and law. His doctorate was in political economics. He was a member of the Swedish Academy, which awards the Nobel Prize in Literature. A broadly cultured man, he wrote brilliantly on subjects as diverse as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the needs of the developing world, and hiking in northern Sweden.

He came from a distinguished family, his father having been Prime Minister of Sweden and a key figure in the development of international law. His mother came from a family of clergy and academics. She introduced him to devotional literature, such as The Imitation of Christ, which she gave to him at the time of his confirmation. Even during very hectic days of international crises he took time to reflect upon the Bible and the liturgy, as well as the works of medieval mystics, especially Meister Eckhart and St. Thomas a Kempis. 

The suggested hymns are fittingly Scandinavian or Nordic. “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” is Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” which Beethoven used in his Ninth Symphony, which was performed at Hammarskjöld’s two inaugurations as Secretary General and at his memorial service. 

The Markingsmass may be used on or near September 18, Hammarskjöld’s date of death and the day that many Lutheran churches commemorate his life as a renewer of society, or on July 29, his birthday. This mass could also be used on December 28, Holy Innocents’ Day; Memorial Day; Veterans’ Day; October 24, UN Day; New Year’s Day, or on other appropriate occasions. It can of course be adapted according to the traditions of the assembly using the material.


PRELUDE:  Suggested:  Sibelius, “Finlandia” (contains “Be Still, My Soul” melody)

HYMN: Children of the Heavenly Father

All: The longest journey is the journey inwards.
L: So once again we chose for ourselves - and opened the doors to chaos, the chaos we became whenever God's hand does not rest upon our heads.
C: Whoever has once been under God's hand has lost innocence: only we feel the full explosive force of destruction which is released by a moment's surrender to temptation.
L: But when our attention is directed beyond and above, how strong we are, with the strength of God who is within because God is God. Strong and free because ourselves no longer exist.
C: Almighty...forgive our doubt, our anger, our pride. By Thy mercy, abase us; by Thy strictness, raise us up.

L: Forgiveness is the answer to a child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is again made clean. The dream explains why we need to be forgiven, and why we must forgive.
C: In the presence of God, nothing stands between God and us...we are forgiven. But we cannot feel His presence if anything is allowed to stand between ourselves and others. Amen.

L:  We come before Thee, Father
C:  in righteousness and humility 
L:  With Thee, Brother.
C:  in faith and courage
L:  In Thee, Spirit
C:  in stillness.

HYMN: Be Still, My Soul

INTROIT/PSALMODY   (to be developed)

C: Have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon our efforts, that we, before Thee, in love and in faith, righteousness and humility, may follow Thee, with self-denial, steadfastness and courage, and meet Thee in the silence.

L: Thou takest the pen
C: and the lines dance.
L: Thou takest the flute
C: and the notes shimmer.
L: Thou takest the brush
C: and the colors sing.
L: So all things have meaning and beauty in that space, where Thou art.
C: How then, can we hold back anything from Thee?

Affirmations of faith.  (Note:  DH never attempted to write a personal creed, per se, but Markings includes many personal statements of faith, “yeses” to God.  The following are excerpts which can be used as appropriate.  Perhaps they are best read by the worship leader for the reflection of the assembly.)

At some moment I did answer Yes…and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that, therefore, in self-surrender, had a goal.
As I continued along the Way, I learned, step by step, word by word, that behind every sentence spoken by the hero of the Gospels, stands one man and one man’s experience.
To be free, to be able to stand up and leave everything behind—without looking back.  To say Yes—
To say Yes to life is at one and the same time to say Yes to oneself.  Yes—even to that element in one which is most unwilling to let itself be transformed from a temptation into a strength.
You dare your Yes—and experience a meaning.
You repeat your Yes—and all things acquire a meaning.
When everything has a meaning, how can you live anything but a Yes?
Yes to God: yes to Fate:  yes to yourself.  This reality can wound the soul, but has the power to heal her.
Thine—for Thy will is my destiny,
Dedicated—for my destiny is to be used and used up according to Thy will.
Through me there flashes this vision of a magnetic field in the soul, created in a timeless present by unknown multitudes, living in holy obedience, whose words and actions are a timeless prayer.
—“The Communion of Saints”—and—within it—an eternal life.
For all that has been—Thanks!  To all that shall be—Yes!

Suggested: Traditional creed  (e.g., Apostles’ or Nicene) according to the heritage of assembly.

Isaiah 2:4(b); 11:1-10; 55:8-13; Amos 5:21-24;
Micah 6:8; Revelations 21:1-5; 22:1-3; Matthew 5:3-12

HYMN:     Words: Robert O’Sullivan;    Tune: Wachet Auf 
Wake, Awake, Creation’s groaning,
The children of the world are moaning
Give birth, O mother earth at last! 
Midnight hears the jubilation 
The people of the revelation 
Mid songs of peace and love, at last! 
The travail and the pain
By joy have lost their reign: Alleluia! 
God's children by the Spir't revealed
The spheres with freedom's music pealed.

Wake, Awake, Death's forces scorning -
All hateful rage mocks Easter's morning! 
Reveal yourselves, ye saints, at last!
Fear and hatred's days are numbered
Love, justice are now unencumbered
When peace breaks through in human hearts.
Like mighty flowing streams
Revive historic dreams: Alleluia!
Where lambs will mute the lion's roar 
With songs their Maker to adore.

Wake, Awake, the hungry call us.
The sick, imprison'd, as Christ befall us. 
With hope, ye saints, go forth at last.
Thirsty, naked and the stranger
Need hope and love against all danger. 
You're called to give yourself at last.
Emboldened by his words,
Make plowshares out of swords; Alleluia!
May nations put to end their rage 
And peace endure from age to age.


HYMN: Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee  

L: May we be offered to that in the offering which will be offered. 
C: God took the form of humanity in the victim who chose to be sacrificed.
L: Denied any outlet, the heat transmitted the coal into diamonds.
C: Beauty, goodness in the wonder’s here and now became suddenly real.



Thou who art over us,
Thou who art one of us, 
Thou who art also within us,
May all see Thee in us also.
May we prepare the way for Thee,
May we thank Thee for all that should fall to our lot. 
May we also not forget the needs of others.
Keep us in Thy love as Thou wouldst 
that all should be kept in ours.
May everything in our beings be directed to Thy glory 
and may we never despair. 
For we are under Thy hand, 
and in Thee is all power and goodness.
Give us a pure heart - that we may see Thee,
A humble heart - that we may hear Thee,
A heart of love - that we may serve Thee,
A heart of faith - that we may abide in Thee. Amen.

L:   Our Father
C:  Who art in heaven
L:   Hallowed be thy name:
C:  Not mine
L:  Thy Kingdom Come
C:  Not mine
L:  Thy will be done;
C:  Not mine
L:  Give us peace with Thee
C:  Peace with All
L:  Peace with ourselves
C:  And free us from all fear
L:  Lead us not into temptation
C:  But deliver us from evil
L:  Let all that is in us serve Thee.
C:  And thus free us from all fear. 


L:  Beneath the hush a whisper from long ago promising peace of mind and a burden shared
C:  No Peace which is not peace for all
L:  No rest until all has been fulfilled
C:  From injustice – never justice
L:  From justice – never injustice

SUGGESTED MUSIC:  J.S. Bach, Sheep May Safely Graze

You wake from dreams of doom and—for a moment—you know:  beyond all the noise and the gestures, the only real thing, love’s calm unwavering flame in the half-light of an early dawn. 
In a dream I walked with God through the deep places of creation;  past walls that receded and gates that opened, through hall after hall of silence, darkness and refreshment—the dwelling place of souls acquainted with light and warmth—until, around me, was an infinity into which all flowed together and lived anew, like the rings made by raindrops falling upon wide expanses  of calm dark waters.


Suggested:  Communion/Eucharistic celebration according to the tradition of assembly.

L:[Be filled] with the love of Him who knows all, with the patience of Him whose now is eternal, with the righteousness of Him who has never failed, with the humility of Him who has suffered all the possibilities of betrayal. Amen.

L: In our era the road of holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.
C: So shall the world be created each morning anew. Forgiven in Thee, by Thee.
ALL:  Lord—Thine the day—And I the day’s!

HYMN: How Great Thou Art

"God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason." Markings

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 3)

What about the CCM’s response to Pres. Harrison’s second question?

The “opinion” of the CCM to this question further underscores that the synod is infallible: “Since ‘A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles’ (1973) was adopted by the Synod (1973 Res. 3-01) ‘to be Scriptural and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions,’ it expresses the doctrinal position of the Synod. It derives its doctrinal authority not from the vote of the convention but from the Word of God, which it sets forth. Public contradiction to ‘A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles is, therefore, in essence a violation of Scripture and thus Articles II and VI 1 of the Synod’s Constitution.’”

In other words: The synod adopted “A Statement.” “A Statement” sets forth the word of God. To be critical of “A Statement” is to violate Scripture and undermine the confessional basis of the synod.

Nevertheless, the CCM (again, rather grudgingly) acknowledges: “With the adoption of ‘A Statement,’ the Synod required ‘that those who disagree with these formulations in part or in whole be held to present their objections formally to those who have immediate supervision of their doctrine’ (1971 Res 5-24). Any dissent from the stated theological position of the Synod is to be brought to the Commission on Theology and Church Relations in accord with Bylaw 1.8.”

And that is what I have done. I met with a committee of the CTCR and shared my critique of “A Statement” with it. I’m not alone. Several hundred delegates to the 1973 synod convention registered their dissent from “A Statement,” as did several hundred (thousand?) more in subsequent weeks.

And the CCM’s opinion regarding Pres. Harrison’s third question?

“While the filing of dissent does not constitute a case for removal, the member is required to teach and practice in accord with Synod’s stated confessional position during the dissent process. If the member fails to honor and uphold the stated confessional position of Synod during the dissent process, the member becomes subject to disciplinary action due both to the violation of the doctrinal position of Synod and the offense against the other members of Synod created by such failure (Constitution Art. XIII 1). In such case it is incumbent upon the ecclesiastical supervisor of the member to exercise disciplinary action against the member who fails to teach and act within Synod’s stated confessional position, whether apart from or during the dissent process (Bylaws 2.14.4; 2.15.4; 2.16.4).  The dissent process only allows a person to bring forth a contrary view to the stated position of Synod which the dissenter believes is supported by the Word of God (Bylaw 1.8.2). Those expressing dissent ‘are expected as part of the life together within the fellowship of the Synod to honor and uphold the resolutions of the Synod’ (Bylaw 1.8.1) and ‘to honor and uphold publicly the [doctrinal] statement[s] as the position of the Synod…’ (Bylaw 1.6.2 [b] [10]). The CTCR and ultimately the Synod in convention shall consider the dissent and shall render final judgment as to whether or not the doctrinal statement is in accord with the Word of God. While the dissent is being considered by the CTCR or the Synod in convention, ‘the consciences of others, as well as the collective will of the Synod, shall also be respected’ by the dissenter (Bylaw 1.8.2). The individual member does not have the freedom to decide what of Synod’s stated confessional position is to be honored and upheld and what is not. Once the dissent process has been concluded and if the stated confessional position of the Synod is not changed by the Synod in convention, the member is bound to teach and practice in accord with the stated confessional position of the Synod. If the member expressing dissent cannot or will not teach and practice according to the confessional position of the Synod, the only recourse left to the member is to resign from the Synod. Continuing to teach and practice in conflict with the position of Synod subjects the member to ecclesiastical discipline and finally expulsion from Synod.”

Out of the smaller corner of its mouth the CCM rather grudgingly acknowledges that the synod isn't infallible. But out of the much larger side of its mouth, the CCM speaks strongly against any kind of public dissent from the synod's majority decisions. Can't the CCM see the obvious contradiction at the center of its opinion? 

If a member of the synod is convinced that some resolutions and statements of the synod need to be annulled or at least rethought and reformed, how could a member of the synod ever legitimately attempt to convince the synod to do so, if the CCM has now opined that any persistent public disagreement with a synod's resolution or statement is a violation of the confessional basis of the Synod? 

While the CCM rather grudgingly acknowledges that dissent is allowed in the synod, it views dissent as an evil, since the decisions that the synod has made are the infallible Scriptural position. "The synod's resolutions and statements are the Scriptural position. They are to be obeyed unconditionally because they are the Scriptural position." Any attempt at convincing synodical members to rethink a theological issue or set of issues (that is, any attempt to follow the dissent process, as the synod allows, at least in principle), is now to be interpreted as a violation of the synod's confessional basis and an attack on Article II. An attack on the synod's resolutions and statements is an attack on Scripture itself.

Despite what the CCM opines here, this is merely a further example of how leaders in the synod view the infallible authority of the synod itself. This strikes me as idolatry.

Even if members of the synod disagree with me on the two issues of my dissent, I would think a large number (a majority?) of members would be troubled by these three opinions of the CCM. Do they not amount to a significant change to the nature of confessional subscription, one that is now quite arbitrary and subject to change? Do they not contribute to the idolization of the synod?

An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 2)

Interestingly, the CCM acknowledges that “doctrinal resolutions and statements both have binding force on all congregational and individual members of Synod until it can be shown that such are not in keeping with the Word of God or the Lutheran Confessions, not as an individual judgment but when the Synod in convention by overture is convinced from the Word of God to overturn or amend them (1959 Res. 3-09; 1962 Res. 3-17; 1973 Res. 2-12 and 3-01; 1977 Res 3-07).” The CCM also rather grudgingly acknowledges that “the Synod is not infallible and has established a formal dissent process for doctrinal statements when challenge arises (Bylaw section 1.8).”

But the CCM immediately qualifies the above by stressing: “Such formal dissent, however, cannot be used as a substitute for the Synod’s stated confessional position and does not permit a member to teach or practice contrary to the position of the Synod. It does not free one from the responsibility to ‘honor and uphold’ doctrinal resolutions or ‘to abide by, act, and teach in accordance with’ doctrinal statements until such time as Synod ‘amends or repeals them’ (Bylaw 1.6.2). This also includes doctrinal positions adopted by the Synod prior to 1977 (cf. CCM Opinion 13-2677). The burden of proof lies upon the dissenter to convince the Synod in convention that it has erred and that a statement is in violation of Synod’s own confessional position. The Bylaws maintain the right of the Synod to interpret its own confessional article (Bylaw 1.6.2 [b]).”

But I ask: how can a dissenter “convince the synod… that it has erred and that a statement is in violation of synod’s own confessional position,” if a member of the synod is not permitted “to teach or practice contrary to the position of the synod”? My online essay about “A Statement” is meant to show that it “does not keep with the word of God and the Lutheran Confessions” and to convince the synod to overturn or amend that document. It is a seriously flawed document, to say the least.

The CCM bends over backwards to state, “Doctrinal resolutions and statements, including positions adopted prior to 1977, do not alter the Synod’s confessional position nor do they add new confessions which must be subscribed. Rather, they elaborate, clarify, set forth in greater detail, and apply that confessional position. As has been true throughout its history, controversy and challenge sharpen the pen for the Synod to clarify its theological position without altering the confessional article of its constitution.”

But in reality the synod has acted in conventions (starting in 1959) to alter the confessional article of its constitution by insisting that members “abide by, act, and teach in accord” with the doctrinal resolutions and statements of the synod. The synod had tried to do so with Pieper’s “Brief Statement” in 1959, but thankfully the synod realized its error in 1962 and clearly stated then that the “Brief Statement” was not a part of the synod’s doctrinal basis.

Lost to the current CCM and, frankly, to synod conventions over the past forty years, are the key words from Article VIII of the LCMS Constitution:

All matters of doctrine and of conscience shall be decided only by the Word of God. All other matters shall be decided by a majority vote. In case of a tie vote the President may cast the deciding vote.

Please read that Article three more times before turning to the CCM’s response to Pres. Harrison’s three questions below.

The CCM “opinion” to the first question is quite revealing. According to the CCM, “open and repeated advocacy of theological positions contrary to the Synod’s stated theological positions is ultimately a challenge to and a violation of the very confessional basis of Synod expressed in Articles II and VI 1 of the Synod’s Constitution, as are all teachings and practices which contradict Scripture and the Confessions. Doctrinal resolutions and statements, including those adopted prior to 1977, have binding force on individual as well as congregational members of Synod. Members of the Synod are required to honor and uphold the stated theological position of Synod, which is defined by the confessional articles of the Constitution and any doctrinal positions adopted by the Synod to amplify, clarify, and apply its theological position in time of question, challenge, and conflict (Bylaw 1.6.2 [a] and [b]). Acting or teaching contrary to such is therefore a rejection of the stated confessional position of the Synod and ultimately of Article II itself. This does not mean that doctrinal resolutions and statements, including those adopted prior to 1977, are equal to, or that members of the Synod are required to subscribe to them in addition to, the Scriptures and Confessions. Rather, they are adopted because they are in harmony with Scripture and the Confessions (Bylaw 1.6.2 [b] [7]).”

If you read this first “opinion” carefully, the implication is clear: the synod cannot err. Advocacy of theological positions against the synod’s stated theological positions is an attack on “the very confessional basis of the synod.” There can be no question that the synod’s position is “the scriptural and confessional position.” Whatever the synod decides in convention is the scriptural and confessional position. To raise critical questions against a decision of the synod is tantamount to questioning the scriptures and confessions themselves!

The CCM simply assumes that when a synod convention approves a doctrinal resolution or statement (by majority vote, it needs to be stressed, which is the only way for a convention to approve anything) it has confessional standing because it is in conformity with the word of God. Why else would the synod approve it?! No discussion is allowed as to whether or not the word of God actually supports the resolution or statement, because such a discussion or debate is predicated on the assumption that the synod's position is not always correct when, by the CCM’s circular reasoning, it has to be, because the synod has found it to be in accord with the word of God. As a retired LCMS pastor recently wrote to me, the CCM’s “concessive statement that the synod's doctrinal positions are not infallible is patently false, given the CCM’s reasoning as expressed in this opinion.” 

This pastor went on to write: “Tragically, this is not a new position. It is more formally, officially stated in this opinion, but is the same old Missouri arrogance which Jack Preus reinstated as the synod's guiding spirit after the brief period of gospel ascendancy in the mid-20th century. This is what a seminary professor said at Walther's funeral in 1887: ‘Because of Walther, [the Synod] was in possession of the truth -- the entire, unvarnished truth,’ and that ‘as certain as Holy Scripture is God's Word -- which it is -- so certain is it that our doctrinal position is correct. . . . Whoever contests our doctrinal position contends against the divine truth.’”

Bottom line: This CCM opinion in fact gives confessional status to doctrinal resolutions and statements adopted by synod conventions. The synod’s decision in 1962 regarding the “Brief Statement” is null and void.

An Arbitrary Confessional Basis in the LCMS (Pt. 1)

According to the minutes of the latest meeting of the Commission on Constitutional Matters (CCM) of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the President of the LCMS, Matthew Harrison, sent the CCM an email (dated 12.6.13) in which he asked the CCM to address three questions:

Question 1: Is the open and repeated advocacy of theological positions contrary to Synod’s stated positions on (a) the ordination of women or women carrying out the functions of the pastoral office; (b) theistic evolution; (c) the inerrancy and/or the inspiration of the Scriptures; (d) church fellowship; and (e) same-sex relationships violations of Article II and Article VI 1 of the Synod’s Constitution?

Question 2: Is the public rejection of “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles” (1973) a violation of Articles II and VI 1 of Synod’s Constitution?

Question 3: Does the filing of a dissent from such theological positions of the Synod prevent action from being commenced against such a member of the Synod, which may result in removal of such a member of the Synod?

It would seem that Pres. Harrison continues to be troubled by my dissent on two issues, namely, the synod’s practice of restricting the office of pastor only to men and the synod’s exegetical decision that the first chapters of Genesis must be understood to support young-earth creationism. My public critique of “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles,” which was prompted by an invitation to prepare “talking points” about “A Statement” that could be discussed with a small committee of the synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), also seems to have created some consternation.

I will not rehearse the content of my dissent, since that is available online at the Daystar Journal (http://www.thedaystarjournal.com) and in previous posts on this blog.

I would like to draw attention, though, to the “opinions” of the current CCM in response to these three questions from Harrison.

The CCM rightly notes that “unity of doctrine and practice were primary reasons for the formation of the Synod and are key to its continued existence. This unity is expressed internally as we walk together and externally in witness to those outside the Synod. Subscription to the stated confessional position of the Synod is both a precondition for acquiring membership in the Synod and a requirement of those who wish to continue to hold membership in the Synod (individuals and congregations) (Constitution Art. II; III 1; XIII 1; Bylaw 1.6.1).”

All the members of the synod agree with this paragraph in order to be members of the synod.

The CCM continues: “The object of the Synod, as stated in Article III 1 of the Constitution, is (1) to conserve and promote a unity in which all are ‘united in the same mind and the same judgment’ (1 Cor. 1:10), and (2) to avoid schism caused by contrary doctrine (Rom. 16:17).”

The thrust of this paragraph is also self-evident for anyone who has vowed to teach in accord with Article II of the synod’s constitution.

Moreover, according to the CCM, “this purpose of the Synod is defeated when individuals are permitted to teach in accordance with their private views, for then there can be no such thing as a synodical position, and a meaningful corporate confessional commitment is impossible. Formal commitment of the Synod to a confessional base is pointless unless the Synod has the right as a synod to apply its confessional base definitively to current issues and thus conserve and promote unity and resist an individualism which breeds schism. [1971 Res. 2-21]”

Here the confusion begins. The CCM cannot envision that individuals who share the same “corporate confessional commitment,” as given in Article II of the synod’s constitution, could come to different conclusions about how the explicit teaching of the Scriptures and confessional writings ought to be applied to “current issues” about which the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions are silent or ambiguous.

Against the CCM’s reading of matters, the purpose of the synod is defeated when individuals, even a majority of them at a synodical convention (hardly a useful venue for serious theological discussion and resolution), insist on exegetical and theological opinions that go well beyond the explicit teaching of the gospel and all its articles that are exhibited in the Lutheran Confessions.

Contrary to the CCM, the Lutheran Confessions are “exhaustive” in their confession of biblical doctrine, since they provide a complete and faithful summary of the doctrine of the gospel and all its articles. According to the Confessions themselves, unity of faith is grounded in agreement with the gospel and the administration of the sacraments in accord with the gospel. Unity of faith is undermined when majorities at synodical conventions insist upon matters that are ambiguously treated in the Scriptures, that are not treated explicitly in the Lutheran Confessions, and that are exegetically and theologically unsupportable.

The way the CCM speaks of “the Synod” is no different from how some medieval Roman Catholic prelates spoke of the Roman Catholic Church. Against Luther some of them essentially said, “The Catholic Church has always expected and required that its theologians teach and practice in accord with the canon laws that state its public position regarding the teaching and practice of the Scriptures.” That professor of theology actually had the gall to burn his synod Handbook and the collection of statements and resolutions that formed the content of medieval canon law!