“Gather the hopes and dreams of all,” sing any number of Lutherans every Sunday as they join together in the divine service. Though they be in different church bodies (e.g., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA] or The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod [LCMS]), still the common song passes many lips.1 No doubt most do not realize that as they sing together, they help realize — in part — a long-held goal of their American Lutheran forerunners, namely, uniting Lutherans of various geographies, ethnicities, and even confessional positions through a common worship. Indeed, the theme of this conference is “What is the tie that binds?” or “What holds Synods together?” From the perspective of the church historian, one of the things that has both held, driven apart, and led to reunion among America’s Lutherans is its worship practice. One of the “hopes and dreams” of American Lutherans is that all would be gathered together through common worship, creating in reality what the church has confessed ideally, namely a unified American Lutheranism.
This paper looks at the history of Lutheranism in America, its synods, and the manner in which they have striven to “gather the hopes and dreams of all” in common worship and where that story stands today.
The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries:
Forging an Identity
The earliest Lutheran settlements in what became the United States were of ethnic origin. Danes, Dutch, and Swedes carved out communities of faith that largely mirrored their European origins. Though not large in number, their heritage would have an ongoing impact on the shape of American Lutheranism, as well as on the Christian experience more broadly speaking.
The Dutch in particular significantly influenced the shape of later things. Their congregations in New Amsterdam (New York) and Fort Orange (Albany), as well as sites along Hudson’s River later became the sites of emerging Lutheran communities as the seventeenth century gave way to the eighteenth.2
Noteworthy among this community were the efforts of Wilhelm Christoph Berkenmeyer (1687–1751).
Berkenmeyer, a native born German, succeeded Justus Falckner (1672–1723) in the Hudson Valley in
1725.3 A determined adherent of orthodox Lutheranism, Berkenmeyer strove to cultivate a distinctly Lutheran identity among his churches over against what he believed was the doctrinal and confessional minimalism of pietistic Lutheranism, as well as the emerging “union churches” of the time. While that certainly involved a rigorous confessional subscription for Berkenmeyer, notably, he linked confessional subscription with a well-defined liturgical practice. In his 1735 Kerck-Ordinantie, he sought to bind the Dutch and German churches of New York and New Jersey into a distinctively Lutheran synod.
Given Berkenmeyer’s orthodoxy, it is not at all surprising that the text opens with a strong statement of confessional subscription.4 What is perhaps more surprising is chapter two, which treats in some detail the liturgical practice of the united congregations.
On Sundays and festival days, at 10 o’clock in the morning, the Gospels and at 3 o’clock in the afternoon the Epistles shall be explained; on the second holiday (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost) and Ascension there shall be only one sermon; in Loonenburgh on Maundy Thursday. During May, June, and July only the Epistles shall be explained. The time of the services depends on the “wind and the weather.”
Order of service on Sunday mornings: Prayer; reading of the Gospel; the first hymn; one or two chapters from the Bible, with a summary in Low-Dutch and a short direction for use in doctrine and life (on Dom. X.p.Trin. the history of the destruction of Jerusalem should be read); the second hymn; the sermon, preceded by a prayer and the hymn Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend or Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist and followed by the absolution and the common morning prayer; a hymn; the benediction (on festival days the festival prayer shall take the place of the morning prayer). In the afternoon, after the first prayer, Bible-reading, hymn, sermon, Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, prayer, Christian Doctrine, with explanations.5
Beyond the common service, the service of the sacrament also receives a detailed treatment.
The Christians who have prepared themselves for the Lord’s Supper should come on Sunday morning to the sermon. The sermon being ended, the deacons shall prepare the table, furnish it with bread and wine and whatever else is necessary of plates and cups, if this has not been done before the sermon.
The admonition, consecration, and distribution shall take place as is customary in our Low-Dutch congregations in this country. In externis: at the words “He took bread” and “He took the cup” the vessels with the bread and wine shall be touched, and at the words “This is my body,” “This is my blood” the hand shall be extended “quasi monstrando” over the bread and wine until the words of consecration have been fully uttered; and hereupon the communicants shall receive the Lord’s Supper with reverence and “Eerbiedigheid.”
During these actions proper psalms and hymns should be sung, and also fitting prayers shall be read; and after the administration of the Sacrament the preacher shall close with the benediction.6
Little came of Berkenmeyer’s synod. Indications are that it met only one time and, as such, its impact was limited. However, at the same time new congregations were coming into existence. By the second third of the eighteenth century Lutheranism was growing rapidly, expanding beyond its ability to provide consistent pastoral care and unifying institutions.
It remained for Heinrich Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787) to bring some order out of the chaos.7 One of Muhlenberg’s primary goals was to provide continuity for the Lutheran congregations of America. A regularized ministry, organized congregations, and, above all, common worship, would lead America’s Lutherans into the future. As Muhlenberg himself would put it: “We should note what until now has
hindered complete unity in connection with singing in our public worship, namely the many kinds of hymnbooks, since in almost every one various little alterations have been made, and in some there are few hymns, in others many. If only there were one hymnbook for all American congregations which would contain the best of the old and new spiritual songs, how much more convenient and harmonious it would be.”8
At the first meeting of Muhlenberg’s Pennsylvania Ministerium (1748), the issue of liturgical practice is clearly at the forefront.9 A analysis of the first Pennsylvania service may be found in a series of two articles authored by Beale M. Schmucker. The articles appeared in the Lutheran Church Review in 1882.10 Here Schmucker notes that the agenda had five chapters: 1) Public Worship; 2) Baptism; 3) Marriage; 4) Confession and the Lord’s Supper; 5) Burial. He outlines the general order of worship as
Hymn of invocation of the Holy Spirit
Confession of sins: a. Exhortation to Confession; b. Confession; c. Kyrie
Gloria in Excelsis
Collect: a. Salutation and response; b. The Collect for the Day from the Marburg Hymn Book
Epistle: a. Announcement of the Epistle; b. The Epistle for the Day
The principal Hymn, suited to the Season of the Church Year, or to the occasion
Gospel: a. Announcement of the Gospel; b. The Gospel for the Day
The Nicene Creed, Luther’s Metrical Version: Wir glauben all an einen Gott
Sermon: a Prayer or Exordium, with Lord’s Prayer; b. Sermon on the Gospel, which is read a second time, the people standing during the reading
The General Prayer, with special intercessions, or instead of it the Litany; b. The Lord’s Prayer
a. Hymn; b. Collection of alms
a. Salutation and Response; b. Closing Collect
a. Benediction — Amen; b. In the Name of the Father, etc. Amen
A closing verse
The Order for the Administration of the Lord’s Supper
Preface: a. Salutation and Response; b. Sursum Corda; c. Sanctus
Exhortation: Luther’s Exhortation and Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer
Consecration: a. Lord’s Prayer; b. Words of Institution
Invitation to Communion11
Distribution: Take and eat, this is the true Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, given unto death for you, (drink — true Blood — of the New Testament, shed for you,) may this strengthen you in true faith unto everlasting life. Amen.
Conclusion: a. Benedicamus; b. Collect of Thanksgiving; c. Benediction. Amen; d. in the Name of the Father,
A closing verse.12
Pennsylvania’s liturgy provided a tie that bound the emerging congregations of American Lutheranism together and helped forge an identity for the rapidly growing Lutheran church. However, colonial Luther-anism — along with other colonial Christian traditions — was about to face radical changes in
culture, some of which would test the limits of Lutheran flexibility.
The Nineteenth Century: Multiplication of Synods but One Service for All
Lutheranism in the early national period (ca. 1790-1840) experienced dramatic changes both in confession and practice.13 Struggles over questions of confessional identity influenced church practice, and vice versa.14 Existing and newly formed Lutheran synods tempered the confessional position of the Muhlenberg tradition and modified their liturgical practice to accommodate the emerging culture.15 Samuel Schmucker’s and Benjamin Kurtz’s “American Lutheranism” specifically argued that Lutheranism must change its doctrine and practice or become practically irrelevant. As such, they became outspoken advocates of revivalistic Arminianism, as well as the “new measures” of Charles G. Finney.16 Others disagreed. One result of the differences was the formation of a number of new Lutheran synods.
During the years 1840 to 1875, more than fifty distinct Lutheran synods were formed.17 A number of issues worked to bind Lutherans together in these new synods. Ethnicity, geography, and theology all had the power to draw groups together. However, one key element was practice — specifically liturgical practice.
One group that illustrates the centrality of practice for creating and cultivating a distinct identity is The
Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. Formed as a decidedly German synod in 1847, the Missourians were determined from the start to make a clear statement of their beliefs in both their doctrine and
their practice. Their reasons for forming a synodical union demonstrate this:
- The example of the Apostolic Church. (Acts 15:1-31.)
- The preservation and furthering of the unity of pure confession (Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10) and to provide common defense against separatism and sectarianism. (Rom. 16:17.)
- Protection and preservation of the rights and duties of pastors and congregations.
- The establishment of the largest possible conformity in church government.
- The will of the Lord that the diversities of gifts be used for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:4-31.)
- The unified spread of the kingdom of God and to make possible the promotion of special church projects. (Seminary, agenda, hymnal, Book of Concord, schoolbooks, Bible distribution, mission projects within and outside the Church.)
While these principles stand solidly on their own, what do they mean in practice? The answer to this question shows how Walther and the Missourians viewed their mission in the chaotic situation of American denominationalism. Simply put, the Lutheran Church in America had become so confused in its doctrine and practice that it was difficult at times to recognize congregations as Lutherans. As a result, they wrote:
Furthermore Synod deems it necessary for the purification of the Lutheran Church in America, that the emptiness and the poverty in the externals of the service be opposed, which, having been introduced here by the false spirit of the Reformed, is now rampant.
All pastors and congregations that wish to be recognized as orthodox by Synod are prohibited from adopting or retaining any ceremony which might weaken the confession of the truth or condone or strengthen a heresy, especially if heretics insist upon the continuation or the abolishing of such ceremonies.
The desired uniformity in the ceremonies is to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books).
Synod as a whole is to supervise how each individual pastor cares for the souls in his charge. Synod, therefore, has the right of inquiry and judgment. Especially is Synod to investigate whether its pastors have permitted themselves to be misled into applying the so-called “New Measures” which have become prevalent here, or whether they care for their souls according to the sound Scriptural manner of the orthodox Church.
Missouri’s emphasis on unity in doctrine through the cultivation of common liturgical practice was not unique. Other Lutherans — some within the “American Lutheran” tradition — also began to recapture Muhlenberg’s emphasis on the need for a unified practice to provide a tie that binds.
A cadre of gifted leaders emerged among English-speaking Lutherans in the middle nineteenth century. Charles Porterfield Krauth, William A. Passavant, and Beale M. Schmucker are among the better known. Working closely with them was Joseph Augustus Seiss (1823-1904).18 Seiss was one of the most outspoken advocates of the unity of doctrine and practice. Indeed, in 1881 he pleaded for just that.
When shall we once have a complete and thorough Book of Worship for our Lutheran Church in the English language? We may confidently answer never, so long as men insist on following the impoverished and perverted likes and notions of our times, and fail to plant themselves on the grand consensus of the ages with a full appreciation of sound doctrine, life and worship as they have pulsated through the Church’s history from Christ till now, and as we find best embodied in what our Church in its better periods adopted and approved.19
Seiss’s plea had already been heard and was about to be answered. By the 1880s English-speaking Lutherans had increasingly rediscovered their liturgical heritage and were about to enter into a cooperative effort that would result in perhaps the single most important production of Lutheran liturgy that the church had yet seen.
It had been a dream of many American Lutherans, from the time of Muhlenberg at least, for all Lutherans in America to share one order of divine service. Indeed, so committed to this idea were Muhlenberg and his associates that they insisted that any pastor who desired to be a part of the Pennsylvania Ministerium would have to promise to use only the service approved by the Ministerium. When John Nicholas Kurtz was received into
the Ministerium, he specifically promised “to introduce no other ceremonies in public worship, and the administration of the sacraments, than those introduced by the ‘College of Pastors’ of the United Congregations, and to use no other formulas than those which they approve.”20 Kurtz here simply promised to use the service drawn up by Muhlenberg.
In the 1870s and early 1880s, the three bodies that had grown out of the General Synod — the General Synod in the South, the General Council, and the General Synod itself — began to speak regularly on
the desirableness of having one service for all English-speaking Lutherans in America.21 In April 1884 representatives of the three groups met in Charleston, South Carolina, and there formulated the basic operating procedure for the committee. All agreed that the service should reflect the best of traditional Lutheran worship. Yet how should that be determined? Beale Schmucker provided the key. He argued that the consensus of the best German Lutheran liturgies of the sixteenth century should determine all matters
in question.22 Out of this agreement came the basic form for what was soon titled the “Common Service.”23 The General Council and General Synod adopted the committee’s recommendation in 1885, and the General Synod in the South did in 1886. By 1888 it had been published and was shaping the church’s liturgical practice.
Support for the Common Service was widespread. The General Council immediately began to advocate its use. It also seems to have claimed wide support in the General Synod in the South. However, certain leaders in the General Synod — struggling with their revivalist roots — resisted the imposition of only one form of worship on the entire church. Prof. J. W. Richard of Gettysburg strongly resisted the movement. In 1890 he published an article in the Lutheran Quarterly outlining what he viewed as the proper liturgical character of the Lutheran church.24 In it he put the liturgical principle of the General Council to the test by examining several Lutheran liturgies of the sixteenth century. He found, at least to his satisfaction, that they did not mirror the principles and practices of the Common Service. And so he ended the piece with a challenge. “But then we will throw down the gauntlet, and will say outright, Make the Common Service out of these eight, who will, or can, or DARE.”25
Several writers took up the challenge and responded. Most important of them was George Wenner of New York City.26 A significant controversy ensued, with both men producing a number of articles on the question.27 Others joined the battle, and it seemed for a while that the use of the Common Service might collapse. But Joseph Seiss, an early and vocal advocate of the Common Service, stepped into the midst of
the controversy with a typical argument — the Common Service provided a middle way between two faulty extremes.
Indeed, Seiss believed that the liturgical question, as it was disturbing the bodies that were developing the Common Service, had already been answered. The Bible had addressed the issue, the Reformation had attended to the matter, and, finally, Seiss himself had already tackled the topic years earlier in a piece titled “How Shall We Order Our Worship?”28
In this article Seiss argued that ritual worship had its source in God. He defined the nature of liturgy as “that order that is followed when people come together to unite in the Worship of God.” God had revealed the proper forms for worship in the scripture as well as in the church’s experience. While the Bible is the absolute source and norm for practice, Seiss investigated the observances of the orthodox church through the ages. He advanced Justin Martyr and Cyril of Jerusalem as examples of what finally led to “regular and established orders of service” by the fourth century. While the church then fell into error and formalism, that did not abrogate the historic and biblical character of the church’s orthodox practice. Rather it remained for Luther and the Reformers to recapture the catholic practice of the early church. Seiss argued that the Reformation was a conservative movement, and should be understood as a medium between two false extremes: the “pantomime and mummery” of Medieval Rome and the dangers of Protestant radicalism. The Lutheran church, he argued, is not “A Church of mere negations, crying down what she found, with nothing to put in its place. Luther’s work was not destruction, but re-formation — the bringing to naught of the ruinous fantasies of men, and the conservation of the true, original, and proper, scriptural and apostolic, Church of Jesus Christ.”29 Seiss finished the article with a description of how the General Council’s Church Book has recaptured, to the greatest degree yet seen, the catholic practice of the early church.
Seiss rejoined the conversation shortly after the controversy regarding the Common Service broke out. In 1890 he published “On Fixed Forms in Worship,” in which he revisited his early argument that liturgical forms had divine establishment, biblical testimony, and historical precedent. To reject the liturgy is to reject Christianity, for rejection of the liturgy shows a willful lawlessness and a refusal to receive God’s good gifts. “A man can no more worship as he please, and yet be a Christian, than he can live as he pleases and be one.”30 Again turning to the historic church, he expanded his sources. He cited the Liturgy of Saint James, the Didache, the familiar Justin Martyr, Polycarp, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, he Apostolic Constitutions, and Cyril of Jerusalem, and concluded:
Accordingly, in all the Christian Churches of which we have any knowledge whatever, East, West, North and South, and from the Apostles’ times on down through the centuries, we find regular Liturgies and set forms for public worship and the administration of the Sacraments. The whole showing is overwhelmingly on the side of fixed forms, proving, as we think, conclusively, that the early Christians, used prescribed and well defined forms for the celebration of their holy services.
Liturgy is “inherent in all proper Christianity,” and, because Lutheranism is proper Christianity, in “outline, substance, and partly in very letter, the same that we find in the ancient Liturgies, and that we have so purely perpetuated in the Lutheran Orders.”31
Seiss formally entered the controversy between Wenner and Richard in 1896 when he was asked to deliver a lecture at the annual Baugher Foundation at Gettysburg. He titled the presentation “The Liturgical
Question.”32 Seiss’s title shows that he was prepared to answer the question once and for all. Indeed, in his own mind he had already answered the question. Thus in one respect, “The Liturgical Question” says little new, returning to now familiar themes; in some parts he simply reworked “On Fixed Forms.” Liturgical worship shaped by the scriptures is a matter of Christian sanctification. Right life means a spirit of reverence for divine things and is a matter of simple obedience to the revealed will of God. Seiss anticipated two criticisms: God is a spirit and therefore worship must be spiritual in nature; and liturgical uniformity compromises Christian freedom. In response to the first, Seiss contended that while true religion is spiritual, “we cannot know spirit without embodiment in some form.” Liturgical forms embody the divine. On the second, Seiss echoed the language of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession and argued that “it is not essential to Christianity” that humanly-devised regulations and ceremonies be alike.33 However, continued Seiss, if one can find biblical statements, “a ‘Thus saith the Lord,’” that outlined a specific liturgical practice, then it is no longer a matter of indifference, but a divine command. The balance of the article is a sustained apology for the biblical character of liturgical worship. The conclusion Seiss drew from his scriptural/historical study might have been surprising given that the lecture was delivered at the Gettysburg Seminary. “The Christian Church was born with as full liturgical equipment as in any of the ages since,” he argued, and, “the Christian Liturgy was long before the Christian Scriptures.”34
However, lest Seiss be accused of Romanizing tendencies, he steered for the middle ground, avoiding extremes of the anti-liturgical party, as well as those who are mere formalists.
Of course mere forms, however venerable, appropriate, or divine by themselves, can profit us but little. No opus operatum doctrine is here to be thought of. As the Creed must have believers in order to become real faith, so liturgical formulas must have earnest worshippers in order to become true devotion. But prayers by set forms may be fully as spiritual and effective as any others, or the Saviour was misled and mistaken in dictating such a form, and ordaining its use by his people. A beautiful, God-made body, without a soul, is a mere offensive carcass; but a spirit, without embodiment, is nothing to us. The perfection of manhood in this world is a sound mind in a sound body; and the perfection of worship is where devout souls pour themselves forth in the completest of forms, be it on earth, or in heaven.35
Finally, Seiss concluded “The Liturgical Question” with an unbridled apology for the Common Service. Where his other liturgical writings indicated an unrealized hope for unified liturgical practice, Seiss clearly believed that the Common Service had actualized the vision. In his mind the Common Service was the perfect embodiment of the church’s catholic confession in practice, the realization of the proper spirit of reverence for divine things.
And a great satisfaction it should be to us to know, and the same should go far to silence opposition to the use of prescribed forms, especially to our Common Service, that, in outline and substance, and partly in very wording, the same liturgical forms with which the Church of Christ came into existence, and which the apostles used, and taught to their converts, have been so truly and purely preserved and handed down to us through the great Lutheran Reformers. For whosoever will be at pains to search out the consensus of the
best and purest of the original liturgies of our Church, will there find the fairest and completest reproduction of the apostolic ritual to be found on earth.36
The Twentieth Century: Which Way to Lutheran Unity?
By the opening of the twentieth century, Lutherans in America were wondering if the proliferation of synods would ever end. However, as the century began to play itself out, it seemed to many that the things were changing for the better among America’s Lutherans. Lutheranism continued to grow and some of the churches began to re-engage one another, leading to several significant mergers.37 The Common Service Book became the official hymnal and service book of the United Lutheran Church in America.38
Over the course of the latter part of the twentieth century, however, the Common Service became less and less so. It was ultimately replaced by the Service Book and Hymnal, which itself seemed destined for a short lifespan.39 By the mid-1960s, Missouri had moved toward the Lutheran Church in America and the
Amer-ican Lutheran Church. The Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, which began its work in 1965, hoped to encourage unity among the Synods of American Lutheranism.40 Participation in it by the ALC, LCA,
and LCMS led many to nurture the hope that the shadowy dream of Lutheran unity might actually be taking form.
Indeed, in a series of articles in Una Sancta, which appeared in the crucial year 1965, several commentators made the link between Lutheran unity and liturgical practice explicit. Initially, one editorial expressed serious reservations about Missouri’s apparent direction, namely the publication of its
Among the many important decisions to be made by the delegates to the Detroit convention (of the LCMS) in June (1965), none will have such a long range influence on the future of American Lutheranism as will the decision about the proposed hymnal and service book. A vote for Missouri to go it alone with a unilateral publication of a new book by 1970 was a major setback to genuine liturgical renewal and Lutheran unity.41
Nonetheless, it recognized that “past experience shows that the actions of synodical conventions are highly unpredictable.”42 The statement proved to be prophetic. At its 1965 convention the
LCMS did not approve the unilateral publication of a new hymnal. Rather, Una Sancta later noted that “among the most welcome actions of the Detroit convention of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod was its enthusiastic proposal for one liturgy and hymnal in American Lutheranism.”43 In extended comment on the proposed working relationship, Richard John Neuhaus could barely contain himself, modifying verse to praise the actions of the convention.
O all ye works of Detroit, bless ye Detroit:
Praise it and magnify it forever.
O ye journals official and suspect, bless ye Detroit:
O ye LCUSA above dissent, bless ye Detroit:
O ye powers of Synod, bless ye Detroit.
O ye hymnal proposed, bless ye Detroit:
O ye doctrine secured, bless ye Detroit . . .44
Noting that a number of factors played into the Synod’s decision to move toward cooperation with other Lutherans in the development and ultimate publication of a new hymnal, Neuhaus especially pointed to the relationship of worship and unity.
In the mind of the convention, the hymnal question was closely connected with Lutheran Council USA and Lutheran unity in general. Both hymnal and LCUSA came to the floor on the same day toward the end of the convention. It was clear that LCUSA would be approved overwhelmingly and to most delegates it seemed inconsistent to turn down an initial venture in Lutheran cooperation; the liturgy and the hymnal. So it appears that even before it is officially born LCUSA has served the admirable purpose of furthering hopes for a book of worship that reflects the unity that exists in the Lutheran Church.45
Neuhauswas convinced that Missouri had turned a corner and that the stage was set for further expressions of unity, particularly within the context of worship and liturgical practice. The perspective of forty years, however, does reveal certain ironies, at the very least, as Neuhaus collected Missouri’s past and prophesied about its future.
The ferment of years came into focus at Detroit. The course is set, although the destination is unclear. The synod has undergone its crisis of identity and shows sign of surviving with vigor. The history of American denominationalism reveals the array of options which were open to Missouri. Ten years ago, as official Missouri was insisting that the synod never had, would or could change its theological stance, a prominent Lutheran theologian predicted that within another twenty years Missouri would be either in the grips of liberal Protestantism or would be the most rabidly fundamentalistic sect in America. Today the fulfillment of this
prophecy seems unlikely. Missouri has declined other options too. The enormous impact of Lutheran Hour speaker Walter A. Maier’s fundamentalist revivalism, combined with anxieties in the synod’s transition from German to English, presented an alternative attractive to many. But this process of “Americanization” failed to find theological expression in any form comparable to Samuel Schmucker’s Definite Platform which was so influential in the old General Synod and continues to be a factor in parts of the LCA today. In recent years, voices have been raised in Missouri calling for the formulation of “new confessions for our day.” Some of those engaged in the revival of biblical studies who speak derisively of anything old unless it is very, very old (first century) have joined in this call. But the serious rediscovery of the sixteenth century confessions plus a growing sense of ecumenical responsibility (and, consequently, a distaste for formulating theological statements which may further separate the churches) seem to have headed off the likelihood of Missouri following the Presbyterian example of revising
confessional documents. There are some of the options Missouri has declined.
Still, Neuhaus did offer a caveat. “While the next decade or two may prove the judgment to have been premature, it appears that Missouri has chosen confessional and evangelical catholicity.”46
Today we know that things turned out differently than expected or hoped. In 1990 Neuhaus left Lutheranism for Roman Catholicism. Further, we know now that 1965 was not the end but merely the opening of Missouri’s “civil war.”47 One casualty of the events of the 70s was the joint hymnal project. With the advent of the Lutheran Book of Worship in 1978 the ILCW largely completed its work. Missouri followed with its own Lutheran Worship in 1982. However, in some ways the moment had passed. As the 80s continued, liturgical variety became more and more the order of the day.
Liturgical fragmentation has continued — intensified — since. Even while many congregations have given up the use of hymnals altogether, several church bodies have produced new hymnals and liturgies of their own. The Wisconsin Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod both published new church books in the 1990s.48 At the time of this conference, both Missouri and the ELCA have new worship books on the immediate horizon.49 As the new millennium continues, it seems that Muhlenberg’s dream of a united Lutheranism with one common service may be fading.
So what is the “tie that binds” us together? A running joke in my own tradition, The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod, is that the tie that binds is our pension plan. There may be some truth to that contention — at least there was in the mind of John Tietjen. Convinced that “40 percent of those in the Missouri Synod compromised their integrity rather than pay the price of following through on the principles to which they were committed,” Tietjen offered six reasons for the failure of congregations to leave the LCMS for the AELC. 1) Pastors, who had not sufficiently prepared their congregations for the potential move, were unable to bring their congregations with them; 2) leaders in congregations were unsuccessful in obtaining the two-thirds majorities needed to move congregations into a new synodical affiliation, forcing these individuals to make their way into the AELC independent of their church; 3) some pastors and congregations decided to “stay and fight”; 4) some pastors avoided the conflict that pressing such a move would have entailed out of respect for the congregation’s mission; 5) some “decided that institutional affiliation was not important”; and, making my point, 6) “vocational and security concerns caused previously outspoken pastors to be silent when the time for decision arrived.”50
But there is something deeper to it than mere money. There is a deeply held conviction that what we hold to as the people of God and how we express those convictions with our mouths and actions are “the tie
that binds.” Yet we do so from within the church militant, which continues to seek to “gather the hopes and dreams of all,” even as it daily prays: “Gracious Father, we pray for your holy catholic Church. Fill it with all truth and peace. Where it is corrupt, purify it; where it is in error, direct it; where in anything it is amiss, reform it; where it is right, strengthen it; where it is in need; provide for it; where it is divided, reunite it; for the sake of Jesus Christ, your Son our Savior.”51
See Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House and Philadelphia: Board of Publication, Lutheran Church in America, 1978), 66, 86; The Commission on Worship of The Lutheran Church — Missouri
Synod, Lutheran Worship (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1982), 168, 187-88.
Henry Hardy Heins, Swan of Albany: A History of the Oldest Congregation of the Lutheran Church in America (Albany, N.Y.: First Lutheran Church, 1976).
For biography of Berkenmeyer, see Martin Willkomm, “A Report on the Birth Record of William Christopher Berkenmeyer,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 7 (April 1934): 95-96; Wilhelm Christoph
Berkenmeyer, The Albany Protocol: Wilhelm Christoph Berkenmeyer’s Chronicle of Lutheran affairs in New York Colony, 1731-1750, trans. Simon Hart and Sibrandina Geertruid Hart-Runeman, ed. John P. Dern (Ann
Arbor, Mich., 1971). Justus Falckner was the first Lutheran clergyperson regularly ordained in America on November 23, 1704. See Julius Sachse,Justus Falckner: Mystic and Scholar, Devout Pietist in Germany, Hermit on the Wissahickon,
Missionary on the Hudson; A Bi-centennial Memorial of the First Regular Ordination of an Orthodox Pastor in America, done November 24, 1703, at Gloria Dei, the Swedish Lutheran Church at Wicaco,
Philadelphia (Philadelphia: Printed for the author, 1903).
Karl Kretzmann, “The Constitution of the First Lutheran Synod in America,” Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly 9 (April 1936): 5: “All called preachers of the congregations shall regulate
their teaching and preaching according to the rule of the divine Word, the Biblical prophetical and apostolical writings, also according to our Symbolical Books, the Unaltered Confession of Augsburg, its Apology, the Smalcald Articles, both Catechisms of Luther, and the
Formula of Concord; neither should they teach or preach, privately or publicly, anything against these [Confessions] nor even use any other new phrases which would contradict the same.”
Kretzmann, “The Constitution,” 6.
Kretzmann, “The Constitution,” 8-9.
See Leonard R. Riforgiato, Missionary of Moderation: Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg and the Lutheran Church in English America (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1980) for Muhlenberg’s biography.
From the preface to the Erbauliche Liedersammlung, cited in Carl F. Schalk, God’s Song in a New Land: Lutheran Hymnals in America (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1995), 48.
The particulars of the service may be found, in part, in Documentary History of the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of
Pennsylvania and Adjacent States: Proceedings of the Annual Conventions from 1748 to 1821(Philadelphia: Board of Publication of the General Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America, 1898), 13-18. It should be noted that the congregations
received the ministerium’s service with one criticism, namely that “the public service lasts too long.” In reponse, the pastors promised “to strive after brevity’ .
Beale M. Schmucker, “The First Pennsylvania Liturgy,” Lutheran Church Review 1 (January 1882): 16-27; (July 1882): 161-72.
It should be noted that the pietistic commitments of Muhlenberg and his coworkers comes out in the invitation (Documentary History, 18): “Then the pastor turns to the congregation and says: Now let all those who are found
to be prepared, by the experience of sincere repentance and faith, approach, in the name of the Lord, and receive the Holy Supper.” One may also see the conditional character of
the absolution for evidence of pietism (16).
Beale Schmucker, “First Pennsylvania Liturgy,” 19-21. Schmucker comments (172): “It is very fortunate for the Lutheran Church in America that the Fathers gave them at the beginning so pure
and beautiful an Order of Service.”
See Paul A. Baglyos, “In This Land of Liberty: American Lutherans and the Young Republic, 1787-1837,” Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1997.; and Paul A. Baglyos,
“American Lutherans at the Dawn of the Republic,” Lutheran Quarterly 13(1999):51–74.
Gothard Everett Arden, “The Interrelationships between Cultus and Theology in the History of the Lutheran Church in America” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1944), 261-78.
For the overall culture shift, see Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989.
See Lawrence R. Rast Jr., “Joseph A. Seiss and the American Lutheran Church,” Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt Univ. 2003, esp. chapter 2.
E. Clfford Nelson, ed., The Lutherans in North America, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980),175. For a detailed examination of the synods of American Lutheranism, see Robert C. Wiederaenders,
ed., Historical Guide to Lutheran Church Bodies in North America, 2nd ed., Lutheran Historical Conference Publication no. 1 (St. Louis: Lutheran Historical Conference, 1998).
For biography of Seiss, see Rast, “Joseph A. Seiss,” and Samuel Robert Zeiser, “Joseph Augustus Seiss: Popular Nineteenth-Century Lutheran Pastor and Premillennialist,”
Ph.D. diss., Drew Univ. 2001.
Joseph A. Seiss, “The General Synod’s New Liturgy,” Lutheran and Missionary, June 30, 1881.
Ministerium of Pennsylvania, Documentary History,18-21.
The details of the efforts may be found in Robert D. Eastlack, “The Church Book and the Common Service” (S.T.M. thesis, Lutheran Theological Seminary, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1987).
Henry Eyster Jacobs, Memoirs of Henry Eyster Jacobs, Notes on a Life of a Churchman, 3 vols.,ed. and ann. Henry E. Horn (Huntington (Huntingdon), Pa.: Church Management
Service, 1974), 2:268: “This result was rendered possible only by Dr. Schmucker’s proposal of the Consensus of the Pure Lutheran Liturgies of the XVI Century, as the rule; and where there are differences, the
acceptance on what is found in the greater number of these liturgies.”
See also Luther D. Reed, “A Historical Sketch of the Common Service,” Lutheran Church Review 36 (October 1917): 501-19; “Our Distinctive Worship: The Common Service and Other Liturgies, Ancient and Modern,” Memoirs of the Lutheran Liturgical Association 1 (1899): 9-18; M. Valentine, “About the Common Service,” Lutheran Observer, September 12, September 19, and September 26, 1890.
J. W. Richard, “The Liturgical Question,” Lutheran Quarterly 20 (January 1890): 103-85.
Richard, “Liturgical Question,” 185.
George U. Wenner, “An Answer to ‘The Liturgical Question,’” Lutheran Quarterly 20 (April 1890): 299-342. Among the others were J. C. Koller, “A Practical Answer to ‘The Liturgical Question,’” Lutheran
Quarterly 20 (April 1890): 342-62; General Synod Pastor, “A Liturgical Riddle,” Lutheran Quarterly 20 (April 1890): 363-74; J. B. Remensnyder, “A Practical View of the Common Service,” Lutheran
Quarterly 21 (April 1891): 218-38; Edward T. Horn, “The Lutheran Sources of the Common Service,” Lutheran Quarterly 21 (April 1890): 239-68; J. M.
Cromer, “The General Question,” Lutheran Quarterly 21 (October 1891): 505-14; E. S. Johnson, “What Constitutes True Christian Worship?” Lutheran
Quarterly 24 (April 1894): 216-23; J. C. Koller, “Christian Worship — Its Spirit and Forms,” Lutheran
Quarterly 25 (October 1895): 427-57. This last article was presented at the Baugher Foundation at the Gettysburg Seminary in May 1895, the school where Richard was
J. W. Richard, “The Liturgical Question — A Rejoinder,” Lutheran Quarterly 20 (July 1890): 457-514; George U. Wenner, “Professor
Richard’s Rejoinder,” Lutheran Quarterly 20 (October 1890): 642-49; J. W. Richard, “The Liturgical Question — A Final Word,” Lutheran Quarterly 21
(January 1891): 84-97; George U. Wenner, “Christian Worship — An Historical Sketch,” Lutheran Quarterly 22 (October 1892): 451-87. This last article was presented
at the Baugher lectures in 1894 at Gettysburg, thus offering Wenner the opportunity to challenge Richard at the very place where Richard taught. Richard articulated his position fully in J. W. Richard and F. V. N.
Painter, Christian Worship: Its Principles and Forms (Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1892).
Joseph A. Seiss, “How Shall We Order Our Worship?” Evangelical Review 20 (January 1869): 79-95; (April 1869): 233-54.
Seiss, “How Shall We Order,” 86, 92.
Joseph A. Seiss, “On Fixed Forms in Worship,” Lutheran Church Review 9 (October 1890): 292.
Seiss, “On Fixed Forms,” 302.
The lecture was published as Joseph A. Seiss, “The Liturgical Question,” Lutheran Quarterly 26 (July 1896): 304-36.
Seiss, “Liturgical Question,” 307. He was consistent on this point, elsewhere stating (Seiss, “How Shall We Order,” 83): “there is always a margin of details of method and useage left
to the liberty of the churches.”
Seiss, “Liturgical Question,” 314.
Seiss, “Liturgical Question,” 335-36.
Seiss, “Liturgical Question,” 335. The dig at Richard is obvious, as Seiss implies that he has not sufficiently searched for the consensus of the best liturgies, simply the divergence of the weaker liturgies.
Among them the Norwegian merger of 1917 and the formation of the United Lutheran Church in America (1918) from the General Council, General Synod, and United Synod South.
See E. Theodore Bachmann, with Mercia Brenne Bachmann, The United Lutheran Church in America, 1918-1962, ed. Paul Rorem (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1997), 63-67. For an
assessment of the Common Service Book at the time of its appearance, see Elsie Singmaster Lewis, “The Common Service Book and Hymnal,” Lutheran Quarterly 48 (January 1918): 91-99.
Commission on the Liturgy and Hymnal, Service Book and Hymnal (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House and Philadelphia: Board of Publication of the Lutheran Church in America, 1958).
See D. Richard Stuckwisch, “Truly Meet, Right, and Salutory — or not? The Revision of the Order of the Holy Communion of The Lutheran Book of Worship in the Preparation and Development of Lutheran Worship,” Ph.D. diss.,
Notre Dame University, 2002.
“Threat to Unity and Renewal — Missouri’s Proposed Hymnal,” Una Sancta 22 (Resurrection 1965): 46. The article continues: “Nevertheless, the Commission has publicly stated its determination to bring out a separate book by 1970. Statements in the Lutheran Witness and
conversation with persons close to the Commission help us to understand the dynamic behind this determination. It is not simply another case of Missouri’s apparently natural tendency towards
exclusiveness. Enthusiasm for a separate publication is not shared by all members of the Commission and its several committees. Some members who have profound ecumenical and liturgical concerns amit
readily that this unilateral publication will further divide American Lutheranism and will result in a liturgy that will tend to solidify the status quo for years to come. The real
enthusiasm for unilaterial publication comes from the Commission’s hymnal committee. The Missouri hymnologists have made it quite clear that they have little respect
for the SBH and are not about to entrust the choice and arrangements of hymns to a joint committee in which the LCA and ALC will have an equal or stronger voice.”
“Another Separate Hymnal Proposed,” Una Sancta 22 (Pentecost 1965): 50.
Richard John Neuhaus, “The Song of Three Synods: Detroit, 1965,” Una Sancta 22 (Trinity 1965): 32.
Neuhaus, “Song of Three Synods,” 41.
Neuhaus, “Song of Three Synods,” 45.
James Adams, Preus of Missouri and the Great Lutheran Civil War (San Francisco: Harper & Row 1977); Frederick Danker, No Room in the Brotherhood: The Preus-Otten
Purge of Missouri (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing House, 1977); Kurt Marquart, Anatomy of an Explosion: A Theological Analysis of the Missouri Synod Conflict (Fort Wayne: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1977); John H. Tietjen,
Memoirs in Exile: Confessional Hope and Institutional Conflict (Minneapolis: Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990).
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1993); Worship Committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary
(Makato, Minn.: The Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1996).
Missouri’s Lutheran Service Book and ELCA’s Evangelical Lutheran Worship will be published in hardcopy and electronic versions in 2006.
Tietjen, Memoirs, 283.
Lutheran Book of Worship, 45.