Art. XIV: Of Ecclesiastical Order

Originally published at: https://concordia.confident.faith/apology-of-the-augsburg-confession/article-xiv/


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Apology [Defense]



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The Fourteenth Article, in which we say that in the Church the administration of the Sacraments and Word ought to be allowed no one unless he be rightly called, they receive, but with the proviso that we employ canonical ordination. Concerning this subject we have frequently testified in this assembly that it is our greatest wish to maintain church-polity and the grades in the Church [old church-regulations and the government of bishops], even though they have been made by human authority [provided the bishops allow our doctrine and receive our priests]. For we know that church discipline was instituted by the Fathers, in the manner laid down in the ancient canons, with a good and useful intention.



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But the bishops either compel our priests to reject and condemn this kind of doctrine which we have confessed, or, by a new and unheard-of cruelty, they put to death the poor innocent men. These causes hinder our priests from acknowledging such bishops. Thus the cruelty of the bishops is the reason why the canonical government, which we greatly desired to maintain, is in some places dissolved. Let them see to it how they will give an account to God for dispersing



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the Church. In this matter our consciences are not in danger, because since we know that our Confession is true, godly, and catholic, we ought not to approve the cruelty of those who persecute this doctrine.



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And we know that the Church is among those who teach the Word of God aright, and administer the Sacraments aright, and not with those who not only by their edicts endeavor to efface God’s Word, but also put to death those who teach what is right and true;



28 towards whom, even though they do something contrary to the canons, yet the very canons are milder. Furthermore, we wish here again to testify that we will gladly maintain ecclesiastical and canonical government, provided the bishops only cease to rage against our Churches. This our desire will clear us both before God and among all nations to all posterity from the imputation against us that the authority of the bishops is being undermined, when men read and hear that, although protesting against the unrighteous cruelty of the bishops, we could not obtain justice.

Confession

Confutation

Apology [Defense]

“The Fourteenth Article, in which we say that in the Church the administration of the Sacraments and Word ought to be allowed no one unless he be rightly called” - Amen! That is what I believe too. I might also add, that the same is true for any other activity or office of authority and jurisdiction in ecclesiastical affairs. Furthermore, even the law of nature, reason, and philosophy teaches the unsaved lost pagans that nobody is rightfully called to public office unless he is properly and ceremonially inaugurated with the suitable ceremonies. The LC-MS has historically had a polity of congregationalism, which has also been historically called Independentism, Brownism, and/or Barrowism. There is so much I could say on this point if the constraints of space did not so forbid it. C. F. W. Walther’s doctrine on church government is that the local congregation through its voting membership has supreme authority even over its own pastor (that doctrine we call the Supremacy of the Voter Assembly), and even the pastor is bound to yield cheerful obedience to them in all things neither outside their sphere of jurisdiction nor contrary to the Bible & Lutheran Confessions. But every good willed traditional confessional Lutheran knows that the idea of allowing women to vote in such an assembly which claims precisely this kind of supreme ecclesiastical authority is utterly contrary to the teachings of the bible in 1 Corinthians 14:34 (quoting Genesis 3:16) and 1 Timothy 2:12,13. That is the reason why the LCMS has never allowed women or children to vote in its congregational “voter assemblies”. In contrast to the Missourian doctrine of the Supremacy of the Voter Assembly, there stands Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession: “Concerning this subject we have frequently testified in this assembly that it is our greatest wish to maintain church-polity and the grades in the Church [old church-regulations and the government of bishops], even though they have been made by human authority [provided the bishops allow our doctrine and receive our priests]. For we know that church discipline was instituted by the Fathers, in the manner laid down in the ancient canons, with a good and useful intention.” It will not excuse anybody to say, “We know that the Bible - and Lutheran Confessions - plainly teaches that the Supremacy of the Voter Assembly is the only polity of the church which is the correct interpretation and application of what the Word of God so plainly teaches about church order and church government, and we gladly concede that the old “church-polity and the grades in the Church” of episcopal and sacerdotalistic hierarchy, is contrary to precisely the Supremacy of the Voter Assembly which is the only true and correct meaning of what the Word of God teaches on this point, neverthless we will retain these old “church-polity and the grades in the Church” of episcopal and sacerdotalistic hierarchy, because the current historical and political circumstances of our time and place are making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put the Supremacy of the Voter Assembly into regular and constant practice.” For the Word of God has already taught everything we need to know about what it teaches about church government, and to plead “necessity” as a reason for practing anything to the contrary denies divine providence. God is not that sort of austere and stingy skinflint tyrant unwilling to provide us with everything we need and the circumstances favorable to the successful accomplishment of those practices we know are required in order to comply with the true and pure doctrine of the Word concerning church government, and He is willing to graciously pardon any shortcomings that may arise due to unfavorable circumstances or lack of adequate means without our consent or control. Their refusal to cease and desist from a polity they know is contrary to the pure word of God concerning church government only shows a cowardly and crybaby IGNOMINIOUS and DISHONORABLE lack of trust in God’s merciful bounty.