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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bruce Cameron on Unionism and Syncretism 

As Bruce said in December 2002, the devil's in the details:

The Missouri Synod’s first constitution, in 1847, rejected the “mixing of churches and mixing of faith” [Kirchen-und Glaubensmengerei], which was translated into English as the renunciation of “unionism and syncretism.” The Synod’s founders did not have in mind events that would “seem” or “give the impression” of a mixing of confessions; they had real, declared, intentional syncretism and unionism in their view. Look at the examples they cited: “serving congregations of mixed confession by a minister of the church; taking part in the divine service and the administration of the sacraments of false-believing [heterodox] or mixed congregations; taking part in any false-believing tract distribution and missionary activities.” In 1847 there were “united” congregations in the German communities, where Luther’s Catechism and the Calvinist Heidelberg Catechism were both in use; the church members simply “agreed to disagree.” Such “unionistic” congregations and their pastors were forbidden to join the Missouri Synod....

Likewise with syncretism—the mixing of religions. Whether we look back to Georg Calixt (and his 17th-century proposal for uniting Lutherans, Catholics and Reformed under supposed “consensus of the first five centuries”), or to more ancient or more modern mixing of confessions or religions, there is a long line of syncretists who have been proud to express their amalgamated synthesis-of-all-religions. Syncretism is more than physical proximity; it is a statement of faith. And there are those who will be perfectly pleased to make a combined, mixed statement of faith their own....

The controversy of the last year has shown us that we do not agree on how our rejection of unionism and syncretism works in practice. When some of us saw or heard what Pastor Dave Benke did on September 23, 2001 at Yankee Stadium, we were immediately sure that he had done the right thing for that place, that time and those people. When other members of the Synod saw or heard what he had done, they were immediately sure that he had done the wrong thing. That so many members of the Synod jumped—immediately!—to conflicting conclusions tells us something about the state of our Synod....

In May of 1945, the Mayor of St. Louis sponsored a V-E Day program. During the planning of this program, Missouri Synod representatives “made clear to the mayor that the Lutheran pastors of the Missouri Synod could not be represented in a service of worship or of prayer, but that they could participate in a civic gathering.” When the day came, this was the program: the Invocation was given by a Catholic priest. The mayor and others gave speeches. Several religious representatives spoke—a Catholic, two Protestant clergymen, and a Jewish Rabbi. The closing prayer and Benediction were given by an LCMS Lutheran.

However! When V-J Day arrived, the committee in charge of the St. Louis celebration overruled the requests from the Missouri Synod and arranged for a “religious service” in some respects different from the V-E Day festivities. The Missouri Synod (and the Roman Catholics) did not participate. In other words, as the old saying says, “The devil is in the details.”...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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