At her recently concluded Pastoral Conference, the Wyoming District asked for more time. The LCMS Catechism Review Committee mailed the “Field Test” of the catechism this past July. Three years of hard work was shown to the church, and the church was asked to respond. The goal is to publish the catechism by the 500th anniversary of the 95 Theses, next October 31. This is a pretty tight deadline. It means we need to keep the process moving – very quickly. And, in discussions with other pastors, that’s a problem.
Barring our Lord’s return, the church will still be here on November 1, 2017. And on April 18, 2021 And on June 25, 2030. We are not going anywhere. Sure, it would be cool to release the new edition of the Small Catechism in conjunction with some big round number. CPH recently had a 10 minute 10 dollar sale to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the hymnal. It’s cute to have these sorts of things commemorated. But next year will only be the 489 anniversary of the catechism. It depends what you are measuring.
And the important thing to measure here is “How beneficial will the Catechism be to the church.” Right now, it’s hard to say. People have come out with various criticisms – and I will be producing my own extended multi-part review. But a catechism is not just a book you look through once and review. It is a book that is taught in a parish over the course of many months.
When the LCMS backed away from Lutheran Book of Worship, there was a rush to put out a new LCMS hymnal. Lutheran Worship was the result. “Well, it was rushed.” “It does have a lot of good things in it.” That was what the defenders were saying about it. It was a temporary emergency hymnal, and it is already forgotten. Congregations still use its predecessor, TLH. For LSB, the synod took ten years. Multiple years were spent field testing it. CPH spent years working on layout, and it shows. LSB is a fine hymnal, and it may very well be in use 60 years from now. It could be. No one ever envisioned LW having that sort of lifespan, and thankfully, it didn’t.
The Explanation of the Small Catechism is the way we teach our children. It must be good. It needs to be done properly. And pastors need time to actually use it in their parishes. This takes a year, at least. And that is what the Wyoming District has requested. A year to use it in the parish. It is, after all, not a “Review Copy” but a “Field Test.” Let pastors take it for a test drive in their classes. Get on-the-ground reactions to its use.
Perhaps there is a thought that people will be more interested in the catechism next year. 500 is a big round number. Well, if so, then make a special “gold leaf” edition of the one we have. Tell the marketing department to come up with some promotions to really get the catechism out among people.
But don’t sacrifice the teaching value of the catechism for a marketing gimmick. Let’s not rush this. We don’t have to meet some arbitrary deadline because of what Luther did on All Hallows Eve 500 years ago. We can actually wait and get it right. Our children, our parishes, our confession of faith all deserve the best. And that will take time.