Diverse worship styles have confused, divided, and confounded many U.S. churches in recent years. Congregations of varying denominations have struggled to decide whether to adhere to a traditional worship style and practice, to embrace one that incorporates a contemporary approach, or to adopt a style that blends both traditional and contemporary styles.
To help the nearly 6,200 congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) come to a “God-pleasing harmony’’ on the issue, the LCMS Council of Presidents recently and unanimously adopted a “Theses on Worship’’ after two years of study and discussion.
Earlier this week, LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick sent the document via e-mail to the Synod’s 35 district presidents for distribution to pastors and other church leaders throughout the country. The document includes eight theses, which are based on Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. The theses do not impose a certain style of worship, but rather encourage great care “in choosing forms, rites, and ceremonies because they either support or hinder true worship.’’ The theses state that “forms of true worship are in accord with the Word of God.’’
Some highlights include:
• “The Scriptures and Confessions give the people of God considerable freedom in choosing those forms, rites, and ceremonies that aid the worship of God.’’
• “Uniformity in forms, rites, and ceremonies while desirable, is not essential to the unity of the Church.’’
• “The polarization that is affecting the Church concerning the issue of forms, rites, and ceremonies is sinful and hinders the proclamation of the Gospel.’’
“The Council of Presidents is keenly aware of the diversity of worship practices in LCMS congregations,’’ writes Kieschnick in a memorandum sent via e-mail with the theses. “This diversity in many instances has resulted in disharmony and even polarization. In order to foster God-pleasing harmony in this matter the COP encourages pastors, worship leaders, musicians, and other church leaders to engage in prayerful conversation with one another, in submission to God’s Holy Word and the Lutheran Confessions.’’
While acknowledging the diverse opinions that exist around worship, Kieschnick said the district presidents are committed to helping the Synod reach harmony on the issue.
The LCMS Council of Presidents includes the church’s 35 district presidents, the president and the five vice presidents of the Synod.
A complete copy of the “Theses on Worship” may be read at: http://www.lcms.org/pages/internal.asp?NavID=15795
About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The St. Louis-based Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, has 2.4 million baptized members in 6,170 congregations served by more than 9,000 pastors. The church, which ranks as one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, owns and operates KFUO radio, two seminaries, 10 colleges and universities, and the largest Protestant parochial school system in America. It has relationships and active mission work in 88 countries around the world and is in full doctrinal fellowship with 30 other confessional Lutheran church bodies on six continents. Also, the LCMS is a founding partner of Lutheran Services in America, a social ministry organization serving one in every 50 Americans. For more information, visit www.lcms.org .