Saturday, January 8, 2011

Michigan District Theological Conferences on Worship

A few weeks from now, the Michigan District will host the first of the three Theological Conferences on Worship they have scheduled.  You can watch a video invitation by District President Maier, and see the locations, dates, speakers, and schedule for these conferences here

These conferences are offshoots of the synodical conference held in January of last year to fulfill a resolution passed by our synod in convention in 2007.  I think it's a good idea for our District to have Theological Conferences on Worship, since, as Pres. Maier notes in his invitation, "there are still points of contention in how we worship."  This is most certainly true!  In the Michigan District, the largest in the LCMS, one can find just about anything that can be imagined in the worship services of her congregations, from setting up a bedroom set in the chancel to preach a Lenten sermon series on sex to High Mass, with all the smells and bells associated with it.  In the vast majority of congregations within the District that are large enough to have multiple Services each Sunday, members are offered different "types" of Services, from which they can choose, based on what they like best, to attend (e.g. Traditional Worship at 8:30 a.m., Contemporary Worship at 11:00 a.m. - some also have what they call "Blended Worship," which is supposedly a mixture of Traditional and Contemporary within the same Service).  The sad reality is that LCMS Lutherans have no idea what they're going to walk into on a Sunday morning if they are visiting one of our District's congregations and have not done a little research ahead of time.  So, yeah, having Theological Conferences on Worship in our District is a very good idea. 

However, I don't give these particular conferences much of a chance to actually address the contention about which Pres. Maier speaks.  Not when they are being organized with the idea of having us move toward A theology of worship, since that implies that we Lutherans are in search of establishing a theology of worship and do not already have one.  The synodical conference held last January was built upon the same theme:  Toward A Theology of Worship.  I wrote about that in a blog post back then, which you can read here.  After listening to all the presentations made at that conference, and speaking with several pastors and laymen who were in attendance, I think it is safe to conclude that not much was accomplished.  And I don't anticipate much being accomplished at these conferences in our District, either.  Call me a "party pooper," if you will, but when the goal is to move toward A theology of worship, as if we don't already have one, not much good can possibly be accomplished.  We should, rather, be convening to study and discuss the theology of worship we Lutherans already have, and then analyze what is being done in the realm of worship based on that theology.  That might be very productive.  As it is, the real goal of the synodical conference, and of these conferences in our District, was/is, seems to me, to develop A NEW theology of worship which accommodates a variety of theologies of worship.

But, I will go.  And I will listen and contribute.  I hope I am wrong.  Maybe some good will come of these conferences.  We'll see . . .   


DrZeile said...

I go into such conferences prepared to learn, but also prepared to share (even teach). If we go in ready to contend for who is right, fewer hearts will be changed than if we go in ready to contend for WHAT is right. I know from my teaching career that students are more likely to learn if they own it themselves, and if they don't have to surrender their own (mis-)understanding to mine before revising their own conclusions. I believe that many brethren can be influenced in the right direction by these conferences if the truth prevails in the presentations. At least, that is my hope...

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Fr. Zeile,

I sincerely hope that you are right. I'm pessimistic because I don't think the truth will prevail in the presentations. Rather, multiple "truths" will be presented and we'll be encouraged to accept all these "truths" as being equally true, in true postmodern fashion.

But, you give good advice - better to contend for what is right, rather than who is right. Of course, that would be much easier if we all agreed that there was a "what" that is right, rather than all "whats" being equal.

I have no idea what I just said, but it all makes perfect sense to me. :)