So, if we do believe that doctrine and practice go together, then how does this or does this affect fellowship? Again, the evidence is quite clear. When church bodies worship using the same hymnal, it draws them together, because the hymnal, their worship practice, informs and educates their doctrine, what it is that they believe and if they begin believing the same things, then what is to keep them from joining together?
Evidence of this joining because of using the same hymn book is clear. Again, going back to Maschke and his writing in Gathered Guests, when church bodies used the same hymnal, “As a result of these efforts, the Service Book and Hymnal of the Lutheran Church in America was produced in 1958. As expected, joint worship practices led to corporate mergers among several Lutheran groups. Of the eight Lutheran bodies that had worked on this hymnal project, four formed the ALC and the other four became the LCA.”2 And more evidence is clear as he continues, “In 1977, the LCMS rejected the proposed Lutheran Book of Worship on theological grounds, though church politics were also involved as an underlying cause of the rejection. The ALC and the LCA, along with the new AELC (a group that broke away from the LCMS shortly before this hymnal was rejected), adopted Lutheran Book of Worship. Ten years later, in 1988, these three Lutheran bodies formed the ELCA.”2
So, if using the same hymnal can bring churches together, what can “disowning” a hymnal do to a denomination? Might we ask this question concerning the disunity of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Might we trace this disunity to the giving up our hymnal? The hymnal adopted and in use in the LCMS in 1982 was the hymnal Lutheran Worship, a hymnal which was an edit of the joint hymnal, Lutheran Book of Worship and a hymnal which was designed to include much variety in worship. It was during this time that some in the LCMS were buying into the paradigm of the principles of the so called church growth movement, a movement using social principles for growing congregations. This movement strived to separate doctrine and practice and suggested that by following certain social principles a congregation could grow. As congregations “threw out” the hymnal and began adapting and adopting various worship “forms,” it became more and more apparent that these congregations did not look like, sound like, or in some cases even care to emulate what it means to be Lutheran.
Might it be that one of the greatest factors in the doctrinal disunity of the LCMS is the lack of uniformity in our divine service practice which should flow out of our theology so that those that are practicing something other than Lutheran services are indeed not Lutheran, but rather are of the nature of their worship practice?
For years in the LCMS, a person could attend a worship service in any LCMS congregation around the country and know they were in an LCMS church, but not so today. To put it in socio-economic terms, if a person were to walk into a Walmart anywhere in the USA or a Target, or Sears, etc., they would know they were in a Walmart, or a Target or a Sears. The corporate philosophy of each store is demonstrated in its running of the store, its design, layout, etc.
At the 2006 Texas District convention, it was stated, and this is a paraphrase, if everyone in our synod purchased and used the new hymnal, Lutheran Service Book, this usage would go along way in bringing our synod back together. Indeed, we practice what we preach and when we all practice something different it is because we believe something different, but when we practice a uniformity of practices, it is because we do believe the same and this similar belief system is what brings us together in fellowship.
1 Gathered Guests, A Guide to Worship in the Lutheran Church, Timothy H. Maschke, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, ©2003, p. 97.
2 Ibid., p. 97-98.
3 Ibid., p. 98.