The following is a letter I sent to the pastors of my circuit. I share it here, because I believe the CTCR has once again attempted violence against the Word of God. It seems to me, that’s not a time to remain silent.
As a Circuit Visitor, I am tasked with “maintaining liaison between the circuit and the Synod at the national and district levels.” I am also instructed to “remind and encourage members of the circuit of their responsibilities as God’s people”, and especially to “serve the pastors of the circuit as a collegial and brotherly advisor, reminding them of the joy of the ministry and of its great responsibilities”. (Bylaw 5.2.3) These would be reason enough for this letter.
But there is also the greater command of God, upon which these human arrangements are based. All Pastors are charged “before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.” This is especially important in these latter days, when the people “will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” The task of all pastors is to “watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (2 Tim 4) It is in this capacity that I write, so that the church may be edified by the Word of God.
Two events of note occurred in the last week, both of which I believe call for a public response. This letter responds to the first of those.
Several years ago, the Council of Presidents had a communion service in which the Lord’s blood was offered only via intinction – contrary to the institution of our Lord, and to the clear testimony and confession of our synod. Our District President at that time requested that the COP seek an opinion from the CTCR regarding this matter. The response / study document was returned to the COP in February of 2017. It was not released to the public at that time. It has now been published in the convention workbook.
The first and most shocking thing about the study document is that there is no study of Holy Scripture. The only reference to scripture is in one brief quote from the synod convention in 1944. Those references are not even printed in full. No other study of the Word of the Lord is undertaken. Two very brief quotes from the confessions are given – one is only seven words. By way of contrast, the study guide quotes Popes Julius and Paschal II, as well as the councils of Braga and Clermont – some of which are significantly longer than the quotations from our confessions.
One might justifiably ask precisely what is being studied. The only defense that can be raised is that the Book of Concord does not directly address the issue – they reformers were more concerned with the Papist alterations to the sacrament (i.e. withholding the cup) than they were the Patriarchate’s (intinction). There is also not much to study in scripture. Our Lord says “Drink of it all of you…” Saint Paul repeatedly says “Drink”. The understanding is that one would eat and then one would drink – two separate and distinct acts. Had the report been a study of the word of our Lord it would have been short and direct. The synod correctly notes this in its 1944 resolution, which the report quotes:
We definitely reject intinction, because while distributing the bread, the Savior said, “Take, eat!” Matt 26:26; Mark 14:22, and while giving the wine, He said, “Drink ye all of it!” Matt 26:27; Mark 14:23. Intinction would be a direct violation of the words of institution. (1944 Proceedings, p. 255)
What further study is needed? The entire synod is bound to the Word of God in Article 2 of the constitution. In addition, the CTCR is supposed to be subservient to the synod herself. And yet the report casts doubt on this clear statement of scripture as summarized by the convention. The report takes a back and forth view – where one side is presented and then the other. The overall effect is to encourage a proper reception of the sacrament, while undermining that propriety with statements that make it seem as if there is little or no difference, or as if it is merely a matter of preference whether we follow the command of our Lord:
The report affirms that those who commune by intinction receive the Body and Blood of Christ. At the same time, it states that there is value in preserving the order of Christ’s distribution of bread and then wine. What that value is, the report does not say…
Other Lutherans have declared intinction to be permissible under certain circumstances…
Our desire is to be faithful to our Lord’s command. For Luther, at the heart of the Words of Institution is the nature of the Sacrament itself, not the manner of distributing it…
Finally, if Synod in convention has rejected the practice, would it not be appropriate for the Synod in convention to speak once more, either reaffirming or revoking the prohibition, since intinction is currently being practiced to varying degrees within the Synod?
By its implicit allowance of intinction, the CTCR is ignoring the clear Word of God and the institution of Christ regarding the sacrament. It is not the task of the CTCR – nor has it ever been – to attempt to undermine the clear confession of the truth, when the practice of the church is weak. We are forbidden from this by the second commandment. The CTCR has failed regarding their duty under God given in Holy Scripture, and they have failed in their duty to uphold the resolutions of the synod. This is both unfaithful and insubordinate.
Our task as Christians is not to have conversations about controverted issues. It is to study the word of God. Where that word speaks and is clear we are to speak. If there is confusion or weakness in this world, we are to use that Word of God to bring clarity and to strengthen the weak. This the report does not do. The church is specifically commanded both to eat and to drink. Withholding the cup is a direct violation of the command of Christ. Refusing to eat AND to drink is a direct violation of the command of Christ. If the CTCR will not study the Word of God, submit themselves to that Word and command of God, and then having learned the Word, teach it to others, they have ceased to be of any use in Christ’s church. They are no longer speaking with the clear voice of the good shepherd. Rather, they are acting at best as hirelings, and at worst, as the wolves themselves, using the Word of God to spread lies about that Word.
In a lesser manner, the CTCR is also guilty of bearing false witness against our father in the faith, Martin Chemnitz. They make it seem as if he is not as opposed to the practice of intinction as he clearly was. They quote him from the Examen, calling intinction a “slight departure from the form of the institution of Christ,” Yet they omit Chemnitz’s more clear judgment on the matter from two pages earlier:
Some afterward wanted to bring the custom of a dipped sacrament from these extraordinary cases into the lawful and ordinary Communion of the church, contrary to the institution of Christ and the custom of the ancient church, and that under the pretext of the danger of spilling, and of reverence toward the Eucharist.
It is clear that in one case (“slight departure”) it is in regards to the sick or those who would otherwise not be able to receive the sacrament, while in the other (“contrary to the institution of Christ”) he is speaking of bringing it into regular usage. It is either an ignorant or disingenuous use of Chemnitz. Chemnitz makes no judgment on the pastoral discretion among the Fathers regarding the sick – this is true. But Chemnitz does make clear that the regular form of doing things in the church is in the manner Christ has instituted them, and according to that command. To claim that Chemnitz “mentions it without condemnation” and that he calls it merely a “slight departure” is to misuse the clear intent of his words. He refers to it as that only because he is discussing withholding the cup from the laity – which is by any measure a far greater offense. But that does not mean the lesser offense is not also a violation of the Word of God.
The CTCR does note in the report that historically, the Western Church has only made allowance for intinction in extraordinary cases. But they can not conceive of any consequence to extrapolating this to a more widespread departure from the Lord’s command, and leave it to the reader to speculate:
If intinction does not invalidate the Sacrament, what, if any, are the consequences of a method of distribution that is unlike that of our Lord at the Last Supper?
The question they have asked is an invalid one. Rather we must ask, “What are the consequences of a method of distribution that goes against the command of Christ.” We both “Take eat” and “Take drink” because that is what our Lord has given us to do. It is sophistic speculation as this that lead to abominations such as monstrances and the Corpus Christi. Had our Lord commanded us to display and reverence, or to process and bow to his body, we would surely do it. But there is neither command nor promise attached to those things. They are therefore a misuse of the sacrament, where we are specifically commanded to eat and to drink. This is the manner in which the sacrament is to be regularly administered. The failure of the CTCR to be explicit on this matter, to the exclusion of error, is a fatal flaw in their study, and can not but lead, over time, to greater error.
Little study is undertaken regarding the clear direction we are given in Holy Scripture. Only a passing consideration is given to our Confessions. In this, the study fails to study anything of substance. That it merely poses questions (in a matter on which God’s Word and the synod’s position is clear), rather than speaking with the clarity with which scripture speaks on this matter, only shows how corrupt the opinion is at its root. And that corruption – absent a return to the unchanging truth of God’s Word – will not bear fruit that leads to the things of God.
I would advise that this and similar reports of the CTCR not be used in the parish for the instruction of our members, and be read with extreme caution by the pastors of our church – indeed, that they be read as a warning that our synod is asking for the judgment of God against us. At one time, CTCR opinions were lauded for their clear statement of the Gospel. This is no longer the case. Their opinions are too often nothing more than the opinions of men, and in conflict with the Word of God. May God grant repentance and a return to faithfulness to our synod and her de iure humano structures. Barring that, we must pray that He would silence those who speak against His Word. While this may cause us grief in this world, the Lord promises every blessing to those who are faithful.
Thy truth defend, O God, and stay
This evil generation;
And from the error of their way
Keep Thine own congregation.
The wicked everywhere abound
And would Thy little flock confound;
But Thou art our Salvation.
Your fellow bond-servant in Christ
Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church, Wheatland
Circuit Visitor, High Plains Circuit, Wyoming District, LCMS