I don’t keep up much with Lutheran church developments in the States (although more, I guess. than I keep up with Seventh Day Adventist politics in Norway). But I did read this round up of the recent LCMS synod meeting in Houston from Forum Letter editor Peter Speckhard. There are a few classic comments and perspicacious insights into Missouri Synod Lutheranism from a Catholic point of view. My favourite is this:
Yet social issues are perhaps the only area where the LCMS is growing closer to the Roman Catholic Communion. Evangelical Catholics are increasingly outnumbered by the Just Plain Old Evangelicals in the LCMS. The Ablaze! campaign with all its trappings could easily be adapted for use by Baptists, Assemblies of God, and various independent evangelical megachurches, but would stand out like a kazoo in an orchestra pit in an Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or high-church Anglican or Lutheran setting.
Maybe he hasn’t experienced a World Youth Day yet…! Still, one get’s his point. Even among us REAL Evangelical Catholics (ie. Not Evangelical Lutherans trying to be Catholic, but Catholic’s trying to be Evangelical!) you won’t get too much enthusiasm for big rivalistic campaigns. “The New Evangelisation” launched by Paul VI and so much encouraged by John Paul II and now Benedict XVI is not a temporary “campaign” but a total Church orientation toward the missio ad gentes. Not that the total Church has caught on yet…
There are some other interesting things in this roundup. On pro-life issues and moral issues surrounding homosexuality, the democratic voting of the Synod was almost unanimous. This leads Speckhard to comment that:
It seems that on social issues at least, the people of the LCMS believe in the official Roman Catholic position even more univocally than Roman Catholics do.
He’s probably right. It might seem, at first glance, to falsify the old adage of Catholic converts that papal infallibilty is more dependable than the voting of democratic assemblies. However, a moment’s reflection will explain this near unanimity in LCMS voting. Those who disagree with these positions have a perfectly respectable alternative to remaining in the Missouri Synod: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. And its bigger by far than the LCMS. So while there is near total moral agreement among remaining LCMS Lutherans, most American Lutherans who do not share the official LCMS position on these issues have already voted with their feet and gone to the ELCA.
Which leads me back to a common reflection: Many Catholics–even strongly dissident Catholics–hold communion with the Pope as more important than agreement with the Pope. (Please note: I am using “the Pope” as shorthand for the episcopal magisterium of the Catholic Church here). I’m not saying this is right. It is just the way it is. No group of any significant size calling itself “The Catholic Church” has become established as an “alternative” for those who wish to remain “Catholic” but don’t want the Pope. The largest significant split was in the 19th Century, resulting in the “Old Catholic” Church–but this is so tiny, and now so obviously NOT Catholic that it hardly rates a mention.
If the LCMS was to enter into full unity with the ELCA, the first synod of this newly united Lutheran Church in the US would not be nearly as harmonious as was the meeting recently held in Houston. In fact, those who “believe in the official Roman Catholic position” would be the ones sounding like a “kazoo in the orchestra pit”!