Here is a story with no ending.
Fictional Pastors Schmidt and Schultz shepherd LCMS congregations in neighboring towns. Both believe that Holy Scripture is the sole norm for faith and life in the church and both subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions (quia) as a true and proper exhibition and exposition of God’s Word. Thus, both are equally committed to this paragraph of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XV (“Regarding Human Traditions in the Church”), which reads:
Nevertheless, we teach that liberty in these matters should be exercised moderately, so that the inexperienced may not take offense and, on account of an abuse of liberty, become more hostile to the true teaching of the gospel. Nothing in the customary rites may be changed without good reason. Instead, in order to foster harmony, those ancient customs should be observed that can be observed without sin or without proving to be a great burden.
(Kolb, R., Wengert, T. J., & Arand, C. P. (2000). The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church (p. 230). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.)
Pastor Schmidt, following proper procedures in his congregation, makes some changes to the order of service, which he believes to be done for “good reason.” Pastor Schultz is offended, holding to a line of reasoning that the changes Pastor Schmidt made impinge on the Gospel. Pastor Schultz approaches Pastor Schmidt about his concerns and they discuss them, many times, at length. After their discussions, Pastor Schmidt does not agree with Pastor Schultz’s assessment.
They involve brother pastors from the immediate area in the discussion. Some agree with Pastor Schmidt and some agree with Pastor Schultz. They ask “experts” on the topic to weigh in with their opinions, some of whom agree with Pastor Schmidt and some of whom agree with Pastor Schultz. The result of these further efforts is that Pastor Schmidt still feels that his actions were taken for good reason and Pastor Schultz is still offended. Pastor Schmidt is grieved that Pastor Schultz is offended, but is convinced that the “good reason” for which he made the changes is so compelling that he simply cannot change them back to satisfy Pastor Schultz.
Both have now so thoroughly thought about and discussed the issue, that were an ecclesiastical supervisor to become involved, if his decision did not go the way either one believed it should, they would believe that the ecclesiastical supervisor was wrong.
Now what? This story seems to have no ending.
Except that the ending is being written by you and me.
The story will only have a positive outcome if those of us in the LCMS:
• Honestly care about and for one another;
• Do not caricature one another or the positions we hold;
• Talk to one another, rather than about one another;
• Lovingly listen to one another to the point that we can state the opinion of the one with whom we disagree almost as convincingly as he can;
• Obey the 8th Commandment, putting the best construction on one another’s words and actions;
• Remain in our vocations, allowing pastors to pastor and supervisors to supervise;
• Humbly apologize, when appropriate; and
• Graciously forgive, when called upon.
The power of the Gospel can prevail among us. That story ends in resurrection!
By: Rev. Jon Braunersreuther
Mission and Ministry Facilitator, Area D