A Brief Statement about the Brief Statement

Had not the Brief Statement been adopted by the LCMS in 1932 there would not have been the Statement of the Forty-Four in 1945.  Yet though confessionals bang the Brief Statement gong loudly and even LCMS, Inc. will appeal to it when convenient, in brief, you are allowed to contradict it.

Consider the voluminous The Church from Age to Age published by Concordia Publishing House in 2011.  By the way, what is with the size of some of Concordia’s offerings in the last ten or so years?  Is the motto go big or go home?  Then again it might cost little more to publish a 1,000 page book than it does a 500, but that doesn’t mean every book is worth a 1,000 pages.  Personally I think Bruce Shelly’s Church History in Plain Language is better and plainer, and certainly shorter (544 verses 976 pages). It’s also far cheaper.  You can pick up a used copy on Amazon for .24.  Yes, that’s cents. The cheapest used copy of CPH’s tome is over 26.00.  Yes, that’s dollars.

Still The Church from Age to Age is worth reading.  It suffers from the peril of multiple authors: some are good, some not so much. So I don’t know who exactly wrote this but I think if he is right about Luther then the Brief Statement is wrong.  “In the priesthood of all believers and in the right interpretation, Luther was not a religious individualists who felt that everyone should preach, give the Sacraments, so on, but rather that each Christian had this potential if properly trained and appointed to the office of the ministry” (433).

Compare this to what the Brief Statement says in paragraph 30 under the article entitled “Of the Church.”  “Thus St. Paul reminds all believers: ‘All things are yours,’ 1 Cor. 3: 21, 22 and Christ Himself commits to all believers the keys of the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 16: 13-19; 18: 17-20; John 20: 22, 23, and commissions all believers to preach the Gospel and to administer the Sacraments, Matt. 28: 19-20; I Cor. 11: 23-25” (14).

Normally, when I find contradictions between what CPH publishes and our confessional position I contact the editors, and if my concerns are valid they modify further editions.  I didn’t in this case because I think CPH’s history book is right.  Second, I don’t think anyone would change anything.  We’ve lived with this schizophrenia over the office of the ministry and the priesthood of all believers for so long that we think it’s normal.

A case in point:  In The Common Confession of 1949 the LCMS said, “’God continues to call men into this holy office and entrusts the spiritual welfare of His congregation to these pastors.’”  In 1952 a second part was added that contradicted the first. It said, “’The privilege and responsibility of ministering to the saints of God remains the privilege and responsibility of all the members of the Church’” (In Documents of Lutheran Unity, 414, 417).  The real kicker, and ‘confuser’, is that these contradictory views were incorporated into one document and then accepted by the Synod’s 1956 convention.

It’s almost like someone wants us to keep fighting.  Well I know who that someone is and he isn’t located in St. Louis or Ft. Wayne. And I think I know the way, or least the starting point, out of the confusion and the kicking of each other, and it comes out of the mouth of a bishop and the pen of a Preus.  I’ll leave it up to you whom to take as a higher authority.  The pen of Rev. Dr. Jack Preus wrote and the mouth of the Right Revered James Heiser said if we really want to move this debate forward we can neither start nor stop with the 19th century. My brief statement in response is: agreed.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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