When I became a pastor in the Lutheran Church, I said that I would perform the duties of my office in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. I promised, with the help of God, to preach and teach and administer the Sacraments in conformity with the Holy Scriptures and these Confessions. (To the best of my knowledge, such statements are standard at the ordinations and installations of Lutheran pastors, at least in the Missouri Synod.)
So, when push comes to shove and the rubber hits the road, what is the result of these statements and promises? What does it mean – that your actions in worship would conform with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions?
For some, the following passages define their confessional view of worship:
And, most famously:And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6 (Augsburg Confession VII:2-4).(J)ust as the dissimilar length of day and night does not injure the unity of the Church, so we believe that the true unity of the Church is not injured by dissimilar rites instituted by men… (Apology VII & VIII:33a).
We believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has the power, according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies [church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in God's Word, but have been instituted for the sake of propriety and good order] in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God (Formula of Concord: Epitome X:4).
Those who love to quote these passages often act as though these were the final words that the Confessions speak about worship. It is not too much of a stretch to say that any practice could be permissible for them, as long as it could be defined as “useful” or “edifying”.
Yet, after making these statements, the Confessions continue:
As I study the Lutheran Confessions, I continue to find much that can be applied today towards this topic of remaining ‘steadfast in worship’.… Although it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of tranquility [unity and good order], universal rites be observed, just as also in the churches we willingly observe the order of the Mass, the Lord’s Day, and other more eminent festival days. And with a very grateful mind we embrace the profitable and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a discipline by which it is profitable to educate and train the people and those who are ignorant [the young people] (Apology VII & VIII:33b).