14 June 2008

Another confessional Lutheran pastor leaves the LCMS...

...this one to Rome. Pr. Daniel Woodring was present, I believe, when I read my paper "What is to be done?" to a group of confessional pastors in May 2005. He tells the story of his leaving Missouri to go to Rome on his blog.

Here is an excerpt of that story which I find interesting:

"One option was starting an independent Lutheran Church for which some had shown interest. But this would require outside employment. I also considered other Lutheran synods, each with their own problems, and, in my estimation, not really any better than the Missouri Synod. The last option was finding a church, outside of Lutheranism, where I, as a layman, could remain a Lutheran and yet worship and receive the Eucharist. This left only a few choices: Roman Catholic, Orthodoxy, and perhaps Anglican (or at least, Anglo-Catholic). I want to stress that at this point, I continued to believe that Lutheran theology was the correct exposition of the Word of God, and I had no intention of becoming anything other than a Lutheran in heart and mind. I didn't think I would find any of these options to be perfect in doctrine and practice. From my perspective, I was already a member of a heterodox church body: The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. Why not go to another heterdox fellowship? Perhaps they would be more tolerable than the Missouri Synod.

I decided to look at the Roman Catholic Church first, at least to rule it out. The Catholic Church, has pride of place, because everyone else separated from them. I also knew many Catholics who denied that we earn our salvation by good works, but always viewed them as being inconsistent with their Church's doctrine. But if they could be Catholic and believe the Gospel, then maybe so could I. I also knew that today’s Catholic Church was not exactly what it had been in the sixteenth century. At least the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification presented a more palatable position, than the Roman position characterized by Lutherans. I didn't believe that the Catholic Church was purely teaching the Gospel. But I thought, possibly, I could enter the Catholic Church, and still believe the Gospel. As one friend, a confessional Lutheran pastor, said to me, “The Catholic Church is, at least, one place you can go and still be a Lutheran.” I wasn’t totally convinced this was true, but it was worth exploring. "

In the first place, note how Pr. Woodring runs through the options Fr. John Fenton set forth in his paper delivered in Chicago. Fr. Fenton's analysis of the dilemma facing confessional Lutherans remains unmatched and unrefuted.

Pr. Woodring decided to try Rome first, he says, "because everyone else separated from them." While this may be true for the Protestants, it is most certainly question-begging with respect to the Orthodox. It was not the Orthodox who subtracted, but Rome who added the filioque to the Creed. It was not an Orthodox legate who laid a bull of excommunication on Rome's altar, but a papal legate who laid a bull of excommunication on Constantinople's. These are historical facts, and facts are stubborn things.

Pr. Woodring tried Rome, noting that "today’s Catholic Church was not exactly what it had been in the sixteenth century." Precisely so! (And, it might be noted, today's Catholic Church isn't exactly what it will be like in the future, either.) That should have given pause to someone who recognizes that, according to Scripture, the Church is the "pillar and foundation of Truth." Pillars and foundations are useful, precisely because they don't move.

Finally, he recalls the counsel of another Lutheran pastor who told him, “The Catholic Church is, at least, one place you can go and still be a Lutheran.” That's funny. I had a Roman Catholic priest friend who told me, "Robb, you can come to Rome and believe everything exactly the way the East does." To him I replied, "I've already experienced life in a body that tolerates a multitude of opinions. I want to belong to the Church, that speaks with one mouth and believes with one mind."

I appeal to any reader (either reader?) of this blog: if you are considering what to do in the face of the decay of the Lutheran confession, send me a note and I'll send you, by return email, Aleksei Khomiakov's fine work on the western confessions of faith. Seekers after Truth owe it to themselves to consider more than one option before they leap.


Matthew the Curmudgeon said...

Father Gregory, Bless!
Interesting post.
AMEN! to your comments about 'inclusion' and a 'solid foundation'.
This is why I went from Protestant to Anglican to Roman Catholic to Eastern Orthodox. I know I can NEVER go back to any 'inclusive' group.
As wacky as my thinking gets sometimes I still say "ORTHODOX" when asked what I am.
Too bad this Pastor didn't contact Father John Fenton about Western Rite Orthodoxy. It's never too late, though.

Ezekiel said...

Having pondered Alexei Khomiakov's excellent treatise, I can only urge one and all to seriously ponder his words.

I remember being present when Father John presented the paper in Chicago. Those were days of prayerful struggle for many of us.

I also commend the presentation of Deacon Gregory Roeber at the Faith of our Fathers colloquium for Lutherans -- it is found on the site of Ancient Faith Radio, "Faith of our Fathers", under the Lutheran section.

Caspian Rex said...

Father Gregory, may God bless you!

I have recently been reading and listening online to the story of your conversion, and it resonates strongly with me, as I was baptized in the LCMS and raised ELCA. I currently am Director of Music at a Methodist church, but am seriously considering conversion to the Orthodox Faith. Much of my interest in conversion to Orthodoxy happened after an intense period of studying the Lutheran confessions, and I believe I have reached many of the same conclusions about Lutheranism that you did when you converted.

I am not familiar with the Khomiakov work that you reference in this blog, but would be very interested in reading it, for more perspective as I continue my journey.

A blessed, forgiven sinner,
Cory Howell
Nashville, TN

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"

Wordsmyth said...

Father please bless,

Can you send me the article by Khomiakov? alove93 at yahoo dot com. Thanks

drasko said...

"Pillars and foundations are useful, precisely because they don't move." Actually, they are useful if they do move a little when an earthquake hits, or else the whole thing comes tumbling down.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

I don't know much about architecture, but it seems to me that it's precisely their moving in an earthquake that leads to the destruction of that which above them.