The Problem with Belonging to a Democratic Church

But we wish them well and pray for their efforts nevertheless.

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14 responses to “The Problem with Belonging to a Democratic Church

  1. Harry

    The leadership of the ELCA has been trying to ordain non-calibrate homosexual for years. The Lutheran writer Charles Porterfield Krauth said that error in the church always comes in three stages. The ELCA is in stage two when it comes to ordaining homosexuals. The ELCA is hardly Lutheran any more. This problem with gay ordination actually with the error of women ordination.

  2. Fight the good fight, Harry. One thing that I do appreciate about the communion to which I belong is that the teaching of the Church cannot be torn down by a simple majority decision. I also appreciate the fact that I don’t have to bear the responsibility of voting in assemblies like this on the doctrine of the Church any more.

  3. On the other side of things, the problem with belonging to a hierarchical one:

    http://ochlophobist.blogspot.com/

    Read the entry for August 14 and weep, and pray for our sisters and brothers.

    • Well. There are ways of doing hierarchy and ways of doing heirarchy. The OCA obviously has its way. The Catholic Church has another. Our way of doing hierarchy is where the bishops have the governing and teaching role in the Church which they exercise in communion with all their brother bishops and Holy Father, and in cooperation with all the members of Christ’s royal priesthood in their care. It doesn’t always work, but the thing about the hierarchy within communion is that it does give one a court for appeal in matters where governing goes wrong and ensures that no one bishop will be able to affect the doctrine of the Church when his teaching goes wrong.

  4. matthias

    The Book of Acts clearly shows that in the Early Church , there was discussion and decision around faith issues,but it is not democracy as we would regard it. The problem is that churches ,like the ELCA,have tried to emulate the world around governance issues,forgetting that they should be theocratic.Yes there are incidences of spiritual and other forms of abuse. i can think of many within the denomination i grew up in,or in others ,but where the Spirit of the Living God is at work ,there should be none of this.

  5. I agree. The problem I was trying to highlight is that there is no polity that the Church has ever lived under which is not capable of being twisted to Satan’s purposes and thus undermining the very life and calling of the Church herself. Popes have betrayed the Gospel. Bishops have betrayed the Gospel. Priests have betrayed the Gospel. Synods have betrayed the Gospel. Congregations and parishes have betrayed the Gospel. There is simply no “fail-safe” structure to prevent it; but the Holy Spirit triumphs through it all nonetheless wherever a poor sinner hears and believes the good news of the Lamb of God who has borne his sin and destroyed his death, and who puts his trust in that Lamb of God and His complete and ultimate triumph. Pray for the ELCA, my friends. The hour of trial is upon them, and it doesn’t look hopeful. We stand all together, though, and what happens to one part of the Baptized as one body cannot but affect us all.

    • Lutherans have always argued that, because no ecclesial polity is perfect, no ecclesial polity can be regarded as instituted by God.

      It doesn’t follow. God in Christ did instituted an ecclesial polity.

      This God given polity is, as you point out, not immune from being abused, however, a thing will generally run better if it is operated according the wisdom of the instruction book rather than the wisdom of the operator (which, btw, is not always a policy I apply personally to the operation of mechanical devices in my own domain).

      The evidence is, in fact, before you. Those world wide communions which today have retained the apostolic episcopacy have also maintained faithfulness to Christ in teaching and worship. It is the so-called “democratic” churches that have failed in this regard.

  6. From a Lutheran standpoint, of course, that is rather a begging of the question? Still, I did not mean to indicate that all forms of polity are of equal value (even if I do not believe that any one form is dominically mandated); but each form must be vigilant for its own weakness.

    The Lutheran Symbols (speaking against Rome, but in words that have come round to haunt us) observe: when proper judicial process has been taken away, the churches are not able to remove impious teachings and impious forms of worship, and countless souls are lost generation after generation. (Treatise, 51)

    Proper judicial process – that is the mutual accountability of each to all within the orders of the Church – that is what is deforming the ELCA even as watch from the side, praying for a miracle nonetheless. It has done damage untold in Missouri as well. We leave to our sisters and brothers in other Churches to evaluate the extent of the damage they have suffered from the same problem. But seriously, do pray for the ELCA and for all Lutheran Christians this week, asking as ever that God’s good, gracious, and perfect will may be done, that His kingdom come, that His name be hallowed by the true teaching of His Word and the manner we live under Him.

    • I always do, ol’ boy. Pray, that is, and for this specific intention.

      Interesting paragraph, that Treatise 51:

      “The Pope exercises a twofold tyranny: he defends his errors by force and by murders, and forbids judicial examination. The latter does even more injury than any executions, because, when the true judgment of the Church is removed, godless dogmas and godless services cannot be removed, and for many ages they destroy innumerable souls.”

      Of course, judicial examination is precisely what the Pope protects in the Universal Church today, and precisely what his primacy stood for since the beginning. Rome was always the court of appeal when local hierarchical authority was abused.

      I find myself reflecting sometimes on the state of things when the Lutheran Confessions were written. It was all still a state of flux, and no one knew quite how that would turn out.

      For eg. I have always found this comment by Luther in the Smalcald Articles (Part II, Article IV, “On the Papacy”) one of those sayings which, as you put it, “come back to bite us”:

      “Therefore the Church can never be better governed and preserved than if we all live under one head, Christ, and all the bishops equal in office (although they be unequal in gifts), be diligently joined in unity of doctrine, faith, Sacraments, prayer, and works of love, etc., as St. Jerome writes that the priests at Alexandria together and in common governed the churches, as did also the apostles, and afterwards all bishops throughout all Christendom, until the Pope raised his head above all. ”

      Which is all very nice, and exactly how they tried to make it work in the Anglican Communion and among the Lutherans who have kept the episcopal order in Scandanavia.

      However, we have seen what has become of that, have we not? It is all very well saying that “we all live under one head, Christ”, but he seem to get a vote or even a say at many so-called “synods” today, does he?

    • Tony

      From a Lutheran standpoint, of course, that is rather a begging of the question? Still, I did not mean to indicate that all forms of polity are of equal value (even if I do not believe that any one form is dominically mandated); but each form must be vigilant for its own weakness.

      Wise and, to my mind, much more ecumenical words Weedon.

      I think as Catholics we need to be very humble when pointing to the flaws of others when our own form of ‘polity’ has resulted in such a catasatrophic downturn in participation.

      We can’t cherry pick the ‘signs’ of failure that just reflect our own view of orthodoxy.

      • Tony, As Richard Dawkins says (see the side bar) “I do get impatient with people who don’t share with me the same humility in front of the facts”.

        The fact is that there IS a Domincally mandated polity of the Church, something that Pastor Weedon denies. That this very form of church government is capable of being twisted to evil ends is no argument against it’s Dominical institution and the requirement of all the Church to abide by it.

  7. matthias

    Except Tony that i think it correct that the Rite of Exorcism and the charismatic renewal,are placed under the authority of the Hierarchy of the RCC. We have seen what occurs within “democratic church’ traditions when their is no accountability-spiritual abuse,pastors bullying,sexual misconduct by pastors and other calamaties,even death.
    But,my friend ,you are correct that we should be humble when looking at the flaws of others. I have considered joining the RCC,baulked at it when i remembered the Reformation and the Inquisition,made a resolution to stay as i was,then compared the RCC against my current individual church and found the latter wanting,in some areas . Worship for instance,where hymns are sung over and over and over, and have decided to proceed with entering the RCC.Sorry Pastor WW.

  8. Matthias,

    I rejoice when anyone moves from a church that does not confess the saving efficacy of Baptism and the real presence of our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist into one that does. As old Krauth once observed, from a Lutheran standpoint the doctrines that separate a Lutheran from Rome are not nearly so great as those in which we are joined together with Rome as opposed to the other Protestants. I pray God bless your journey and that you live from the Gospel always!

    • Pastor Weedon is quite right, Matthias. I would support and encourage (for eg.) anyone who was considering converting from Baptist Christianity to Lutheran Christianity for precisely these reasons. I would gently point out that the journey may have yet another river to cross (let us just say that Lutheranism is on the “near bank”), but I would rejoice in their movement in the right direction!