Coupage Coal Miner’s Communion, and Mutage

The 1970 book Wines for Everyone says this. “It would be neat to say that there is only one kind of bad wine but a million sorts of good. Unfortunately, this is untrue, for the ingenuity of some wine merchants is such that are many sorts of rubbishy wine, that is, wines which have no individuality, no character. Some are made by mixing a little good wine with much bad and giving it the name of good. This is called in France, where it is a custom of enormous antiquity, coupage. The result of the operation is that the best qualities of the good are destroyed without a trace” (11).

This is the truth of one bad apple spoiling the bunch. Or the divine truth “one sinner destroys much good” (Ecc. 9:18). The Strange Woman of Proverbs readily goes to bed with Truth, wants to go to bed with Truth because she has nothing to lose. Error is multifaceted and is harmed not at all by adding one more ‘truth’ to its collection.

We facilitate such corruption in our own congregations by committing coupage at the Communion rail, and we do this by celebrating Coalminer’s Communion.

Luther regularly rails against what he called “coal miner’s faith.” Ask a coal miner what he believes and he says, “I believe what the church believes.” Ask him what does the church believe? And he answers, “The church believes what I believe.”

For 27 years I committed the coupage of coal miner’s Communion by communing everyone who went by the label LCMS. Coal miner’s communion is based on no deeper confession that the Synod believes what I do and I believe what the Synod does.

Interestingly, the first to ding me on this were the 5 liberal pastors in my first circuit 34 years ago. The next to ding me was Pastor Rolf Preus in an article where he said that what the LCMS really says is that we are in fellowship based on our agreement with Article 2 of the Synod’s constitution. However, by a slight of hand, the “churchmen” (My word not Preus’) say this means all who have, take, use the label LCMS. The truth is – as every confessional movement in the LCMS over the last 30 years knows –a church or pastor can be a member in good standing in the LCMS and believe, teach, and practice open Communion, feminism, abortion, gay marriage, praying with pagans, evolution, etc.

Here’s the “churchman’s” response. Well, the confession of the LCMS is orthodox, so the label LCMS means that. Even if it were true before the 2004 convention, it wasn’t true after. Praying with pagans was embraced as well as a denial that the Order of Creation applied to church offices other than that of pastor. Open Communion was described in the president’s official report as “a difference in practice” not doctrine and diversity in worship, contrary to our constitution, was embraced and encouraged.

For over 9 years, I pastored people who believed in open Communion, happy clappy liturgy, feminism, and more. These people were at that church when I got there. I did nothing about them. Since 2010, I’ve repented. I don’t confirm, commune, or transfer anyone spouting these theologies. When I did these things, I was practicing coupage, destroying the best qualities of the good theology in our confession by mixing them with error. I certainly didn’t elevate their theology, but tainted my own.

The Lord of the Church promises He spits out the lukewarm. What do you think He does with a corrupted confession? Let us spit that out before we are so spat. Let us indeed perform another wine making tasks called mutage. This is the French term for fortifying a wine by adding alcohol (Ibid. 176). Let us repent of reducing our confession to a four-letter acronym and fortify it with a full-throated confession of all the articles of our doctrine (FC, SD, X, 31).

About Rev. Paul R. Harris

Ordained pastor of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
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