Morgendämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer theologirt.
Nescire autem quid ante quam natus sis acciderit id es semper esse puerum.
Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.
Homo sum humani nihil a me alienum puto.
Semper idem sed non eodem modo.


Verbum domini manet in aeternum. The word of the Lord endures forever.
1 Peter 1:24-25, quoting Isaiah 40:6,8. Motto of the Lutheran Reformation.

Fayth onely justifieth before God. Robert Barnes, DD The Supplication, fourth essay. London: Daye, 1572.

Lord if Thou straightly mark our iniquity, who is able to abide Thy judgement? Wherefore I trust in no work that I ever did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ. I do not doubt, but through Him to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Robert Barnes, DD, before he was burnt alive for "heresy", 30 July 1540.

What is Luther? The doctrine is not mine, nor have I been crucified for anyone. Martin Luther, Dr. theol. (1522)

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23 October 2009

Is Having Bishops A Problem?

Here's something, regarding the position that our problems in the LCMS derive from, or continue because of, the lack of a correct polity.

On the Beeb (the BBC) I see a story reporting that The Church of Sweden, a Lutheran body, will starting November perform same-sex weddings for homosexual couples, following the Swedish government's decision in May to give homosexual couples the same legal status as heterosexual ones. The archbishop of the church is all for it.

Now, there has been a bishop in Uppsala since King Ingold the Elder of Sweden in the 11th Century, under the archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen in Germany. The bishopric was made an archbishopric in 1164, although the Archbishop of Lund (under Danish control then) was the senior bishop (primate) in Sweden and ordained the archbishops of Uppsala. Then several Uppsala archibishops got themselves ordained by the Pope directly, and finally with the Pope's permission the Archbishop of Uppsala declared himself primate ot Sweden in 1467.

In 1531 the King of Sweden, Gustav I, aka Gustav Vasa, named Laurentius Petri archbishop. What happened was, the archbishop Gustav Trolle had sympathies with the Danish king, but when the Danish king's rule in Sweden ended in 1521 Gustav had to flee to Denmark. Whereupon the Pope ordered the Swedish king, Gustav Vasa, to reinstate Gustav the archbishop (I know, too many Gustavs), but the king had Johannes Magnus consecrated archbishop instead, however, Johannes did not go along with Lutheran teaching, so the king sent him abroad as a diplomat to Russia and in 1531 appointed Petri archbishop.

So, while there has been a continuous list of guys called bishop or archbishop of Uppsala for centuries, this is not the same as apostolic succession or continuity of the historic episcopate. A bishopric is not the same as an episcopacy. A bishopric is the area under an office called bishop; an episcopate or the episcopacy is the office of bishop itself; the episcopate is bishops collectively. The continuous existence of a bishopric is there for all to see; the continuous existence of the episcopate in those who occupy the office of bishop in a bishopric is a matter of some dispute. The continuity of episcopal polity does not mean the continuity of the episcopate.

In Eastern Orthodox eyes, succession is not a purely mechanical matter of who ordained whom, it is also something in communion with the wider church, and the actions just recounted not being actions in communion with the wider church, there would be no consensus as to whether they retain continuity or do not retain continuity or whether it cannot be determined. And in Roman Catholic eyes, the last valid sitting bishop of Uppsala was Johannes Magnus and the last archbishop period was his brother Olaus who though appointed by the Pope never saw Sweden in that capacity, and Sweden started over, as it were, as a mission country and now has a valid archbishop, whose seat is Stockholm.

An example of what was said in the prior post, that the historic episcopacy has not even held to-gether a common view of what the historic episcopacy is or who even has it. This is of Christ, or needed in his church, or even if needed, has worked? Hardly. Nor, btw, could we solve it in this case and jump back to the archibishop of Lund, either with regard to historic episcopacy or historical doctrine -- the current archbishop there is a Lutheran woman, as was her predecessor, the first woman archbishop in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. She is however the first female bishop appointed through the vote of her church, the others having been appointed by the Swedish government, from which the church became independent only in 2000.

Yep, those bishops really hold the traditional faith to-gether against all the forces within and without the church, yeah right.

This is not a post about same-sex marriage, womens' ordination or apostolic succession. The point is, the first two named issues represent departures, whether one sees that as a good or bad thing, from what had been previously universally understood and upheld by those who claim the third, and those who claim the third do not have a common understanding of what that is or whether each other has it. Meaning that, polity, even if it is the preferred polity, does not conserve the church or preserve its faith unchanged over time from the Apostles, and in fact, if it does, then it hasn't, which means the whole thing, not just the polity but the faith itself, is wrong at worst and unneeded at best.

And gee, this from Sweden and just a couple of weeks ago, the Evangelical Church of Germany, in German the Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, or EKD -- a church, says so right in the name, that also says it isn't a church, which it isn't but a federation of 22 regional church bodies, called landeskirchen in German, except the landes (lands) of which they are kirchen (churches) aren't around now, they are formerly independent German speaking former states of which they were state churches, 9 Lutheran, 2 Reformed, and 11 Lutheran-Reformed from the state-enforced Prussian Union -- anyway as of a couple of weeks ago says the Augsburg Confession is not considered its or even one of its confessional documents. But they got bishops! They got the preferred episcopal polity!

Yes, it would have been nice had the bishops, including the bishop of Rome, heeded the call back to the Gospel which we believe was the Lutheran Reformation. But, it didn't happen, and it isn't happening. It is very good that we have learned that the resulting differences do not have to become part of bloodshed and war; it will also be good for us to recognise that the preferred polity is not the required polity, and history has born that out, that even where it in some form or understanding has been retained, the Christian faith as we confess it has not.

The word of the Lord endures forever, because it is the word of the Lord, not because of a preferred church polity. And now, one of the main reasons why it might be preferred, namely, because it is also a required function of the state and all that has been known for centuries, either does not exist or does not exist with the force of former times which contributed much to the former bloodshed and war. Thanks be to God for his gift of seeing this to Walther and the rest who established our beloved synod the LCMS.


Xan said...


Fascinating as usual, PE.

Xan said...

PS - Sorry about your 'Huskers. Ouch.