Here is a fun site to check in on every once in a while. Three women with a bunch of kids. Our three are put to shame. The particular post is trying to think about where church ends and politics begins. That is where the title of this post comes from. It is a reference to a Lutheran inside joke and a theologian by the name of Forde. (Ask me and I’ll explain further).
As Lutheran’s we belive in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”. Big problem there is it is an article of faith. We can’t see it. Even if we could see it here and now (i.e. Rome’s claims were right), we still couldn’t see it as the una sancta is in all times and all places, many of which have gone to their reward.
Confessionally we also profess the local congregation. AC7 – where the gospel is preached the sacraments administered.
Is there anything that is “church” between those two things – the one holy and the local congregation. There are many in the LCMS who have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to say yes.
Of course saying no doesn’t relieve someone of being civil to bureaucrats, but it does remove that slightly ill feeling of doing secular things in holy spaces. I think Rebekah’s theses are on the right track. These political assemblies called churches are really political entities (in the left hand kingdom in fancy Lutheran speak). Those in them deserve civil respect. The respect you would give a judge or the police. Which is much more than they often get. But these “churches” are not repositories of the gospel. They do not speak for the one holy. They can, but that take decades or centuries to sort out and then other voices join them.
A bunch of things become clearer when we see these intermediate bodies as law oriented bodies for the sake of the gospel. You want the gospel? Go to your congregation and expect the one holy we see in Revelation. You want to effectively manage the civil affairs? Send your best people and trust that they are doing the best they can. But don’t confuse their work for the church or the gospel. Doing so is claiming the same thing as Rome, and bluntly if anyone is going to claim that, the guy in Rome has a better case.