Rev. Matthew Harrison of LCMS World Relief has published a paper titled “It’s Time” and subtitled “LCMS Unity and Mission.” It is but the latest plan to get together by talking. Issuing yet another call to talk is not how the process begins. Something has to happen to get everyone to the table. Right now the “other” side, the “them” carried the last convention 90% to 10% why should they care to talk?
Rev. Harrison’s thesis is the same as Rev. David Rhode’s which by the way is the same as Rev. Gerald Kieschnick’s 85% of us can by talking get to the point where we agree 100%.
Do you know what you call people who aren’t in 100% agreement on doctrine? You call them out of fellowship. And that’s the problem; that’s the thing that is long past time to concretely recognize.
We who preach that agreement in the Gospel and all its articles is necessary for altar and pulpit fellowship haven’t practiced what we preach. We who practice closed Communion commune with pastors who practice open Communion. We who believe that unionism and syncretism really do exist and are contrary to our Confession commune with those who believe these are a preaching of the Gospel. We who believe the order of creation excludes women from preaching, teaching, leading, or reading in a Divine Service commune with those who promote women doing all three.
We are doing our brothers in Christ a shameful, sinful disservice when we do this. Werner Elert in his Eucharistic Fellowship in the First Four Centuries of the Church points out in pages 200ff that all those in power care about is that you go to Communion with them. They don’t care if you go protesting, criticizing, or challenging them just so long as you go.
It’s long past time for us to cease doing this. People who practice open Communion have no problem communing those who practice closed Communion. We are the ones, if we are consistent, who ought to have the problem. But here’s what happens: for the sake of a peace and unity, which admittedly isn’t there, we go to the altar with them. It happens like one of our seminary students described. He was with a group of seminary students helping out in the aftermath of Katrina. That Sunday the group attended a LCMS church which clearly practiced open communion. He said although he didn’t commune and neither did several other seminarians, their professor did!
Can you imagine the ruckus, the brouhaha, the rhubarb that would have ensued had he not and told the officiating pastor why not? There would have been mayhem; there would have been charges of selective fellowship, but there would have been a reason to start talking. If the Rev. Matthew Harrison wants me to take his proposal seriously (though I have no idea what it means to be “doctrinally missional and missionally doctrinal”), let me hear of him not communing at an open Communion altar when he is out fund raising for LCMS World Relief. He speaks of being moved to tears as LCMS leaders communed at an altar where an ELCA female bishop presided and being overcome with sadness at hearing a church leader assert the Reformed do have the Lord’s Supper. But does he himself give evidence of a fellowship that does not exist? If he does what divisions does he propose talking about? If you’re communing at the same altar, you’re not, or had better not be divided lest you wish to be a hypocrite.
Four things I’m sure of: 1) I have been a hypocrite. 2) Rev. Matt Harrison doesn’t wish to be a hypocrite; 3) I will be part of the 15% unable to come together under Rev. Harrison’s plan, and 4) it’s long past time I admitted that.
Pastor Harris, you have just described my angst in a few short paragraphs. It’s one thing to rebuke those who practice open communion, but then the other shoe fails to drop when we go to the altar with them. I am guilty of this as well. Selective fellowship will begin to turn heads I suppose and get the subject on the table at least. Thanks for blogging. Keep it up.
Cheers to the 15%!