Unionism & Syncretism Follow-up #2

President Harrison and the District President have both issued new pastoral letters.

Now I am feeling much better for three reasons.
1) President Harrison, instead of his first letter asserting a definition of worship as prayer and readings and holding the pastor guilty, has admitted that we as a synod are conflicted about that definition.

As the nation struggles with increasing violence and tragedy, we as a church body have struggled and continue to struggle with how to respond to civic/religious services in the midst of such events and to do so in a way that is in accord with our core convictions about the uniqueness of Christ. There are strong differences of opinion on this issue within the Missouri Synod, and that is because we all take our commitments to the Bible and to serving the neighbor very seriously.

2) President Harrison has made it clear that Pastor Morris’ apology was not over that difference, but as his initial letter held he apologized where offense was taken. The apology was not over core differences which are still present, but was an acknowledgement of differences.

I naively thought an apology for offense in the church would allow us to move quickly beyond internal controversy and toward a less emotional process of working through our differences, well out of the public spotlight. That plan failed miserably. Pastor Morris graciously apologized where offense was taken as a humble act to help maintain our often fragile unity in the church (1 Corinthians 8).

3) The joint statement of unity is big to me. This may be taking it too far, but what I take that as is President Harrison who sympathizes with a tighter definition, and the pastor who sympathizes with a looser definition, acknowledge that this is not, at this time, a communion dividing difference. There are no anathemas to be declared. That is the purpose behind the announcement of reconciliation and peace in my hearing.

If there is one thing that I am for it is clear definitions even if those definitions are just of the status of the controversy. At the time of the Reformation it literally took two generations to work through differences and come to concord captured in the Formula of Concord. The first part of that work is always a definition of the controversy. The first set of letters in my mind dodged clarity and asserted unity where there was none. These are clear and call a thing what it is. That is a holy tension we carry.