In scene 2 of the second act of Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet”, Juliet makes the definitive statement regarding Romeo’s family name, “That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words, Romeo’s family name has nothing to do with their love for one another.
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Recently, the name “Creator’s Praise Ministries”, and the apparent absence of the name "Lutheran" was questioned. The full name is actually “Creator’s Praise Ministries: A ministry of the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod”. That is a really long name. It may also be called Creator’s Praise Ministries Lutheran Church. But generally we like to stick to Creator’s Praise Ministries or even CPM. The question is, can a rose still smell sweet if it isn't called a rose? It’s not that unusual to shorten the reference to a church to simply something like, Trinity or Our Savior or St. Michael’s with an assumed affiliation. Since this is a new ministry many people want to know exactly who this organization is, and rightly so. Just to clarify, CPM is a new church start of the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and therefore subscribes to the doctrinal position of the LCMS. What does this mean? OR What’s in a name?
Years ago there was a resolution in the synod requiring every congregation to include “Lutheran” in the name. To do otherwise, was considered deceptive or misleading. Since questions have arisen about the name “Creator’s Praise Ministries”, we have a unique opportunity to assess the merits of this resolution. One of the shortcomings of the resolution is that it did not require a distinction between types of Lutherans. It simply obligated congregations to include Lutheran in the name. You may not be aware of the fact that a Lutheran is not a Lutheran is not a Lutheran. The largest Lutheran denomination in the US actually rejects a Biblical creation, supports sexual confusion and immorality, approves of abortion, and denies the authority of the Bible. These Lutherans dress like the LCMS Lutherans, sing hymns like LCMS Lutherans, follow a liturgical order like LCMS Lutherans, and their clergy wear the same uniforms as LCMS Lutherans. But those Lutherans are not the same as these Lutherans. Similarly, if the general public has had any interaction with "Lutherans" in the past, there is no guarantee that it was consistent with our association nor that it was positive. The people that care most about the name “Lutheran” are the people who bear the name Lutheran.
Among those Lutherans that are part of the Missouri Synod there are also fairly large differences. Some Lutherans within the LCMS are now aligning themselves within the synod as a form of Neo-Catholicism. Adopting Fr. (Father) in the front of their names, pastors are signaling a merging of nomenclature previously distinct from Roman Catholicism. This is not a big leap, probably every pastor that has made hospital visitations while wearing a clerical has been called Father by those of Catholic background who did not recognize them. Additionally, there seems to be a renewed interest in creating a hierarchical distinction between clergy and laity, such as the reintroduction of the chasuble and emphasis on movements and gestures during worship that express reverence but may also closely resemble Catholic practices such as genuflection. Some of these orthodox Lutheran churches even change their signage to reflect that they are not just LCMS but a Confessional church within the LCMS. These congregations often provide some of the most beautiful historically liturgical settings for worship. In case you’re wondering, all churches of the LCMS subscribe to the same confessions represented in part by the “Small Catechism”.
Other LCMS churches have introduced blended or contemporary worship settings. These churches are trying to strike a balance between the historic church and the people of the day. This typically shows up in the type of musical settings for public worship. Since printing, projecting, and media sharing options have increased, the ability to introduce and make readily available new musical settings have also increased. We are no longer bound to a printed book in a pew. New music may be introduced, learned, evaluated, shared, printed, projected, and enjoyed with ease. We no longer must wait for the next edition of the hymnal to come out before we can plan an alternate setting for worship. While contemporary music is sometimes criticized because of the repetition of lyrics, it is the repetition of lyrics that has been used to assist in the retention of many beloved hymns and settings of the past which we know so well. As such, repetition in contemporary music has a strong history in the liturgy and hymns of the past. Just remember the Kyrie, Triple Alleluia, or Agnus Dei in the liturgy, and don’t forget awesome hymns like “Just as I am”, “How Great Thou Art”, and “The Strife is O’er”.
The point is, the name Lutheran means something to Lutherans, though not always the same thing. If it’s that confusing among those who identify as Lutherans, what does it mean to the world? If the name Lutheran is only a label to pacify other Lutherans, it is a shallow association. The synod was formed for the basis of accomplishing the mission of God by walking together through cooperation and mutual agreement in the faith. It is more than just simply saying “I’m Lutheran”. If we’re serious about our faith we should be eager to lead people to eternal life by training them to live as disciples of Christ. This should be prioritized before ever leading them to embrace a heritage of Lutheranism. Martin Luther would insist on these criteria, “Only Grace, only faith, Only Scripture, Only Christ!” Of that, I am 100% positive he would agree. We should belong to Christ over and above any other denominational identity. Our head is Christ. We are the body of Christ. We share a communion with Christ. This church is His church. We exist to do His mission. We are baptized into His name. To Him alone be the glory now and forever.
For the association we have within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, we are more than thankful! Through our partnership in the Gospel with the LCMS, God is working to accomplishing this humungous task among us of making disciples of all nations in southern Michigan. This affiliation also enables us to support other missions outside this area through the District and Synod that advance the Kingdom of Christ. We value our walk within the LCMS, and rejoice in our even bigger association with God’s eternal Kingdom. In the Apostles’ Creed we say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints”. In the Nicene Creed we confess, “I believe in one holy Christian and apostolic Church”. St. Paul declared, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” Ephesians 4:4-6. This is the confession we agree with as Creator’s Praise Ministries. This is the association Jesus called us into and of which He assures us, that against it, the gates of hell shall not prevail (Matthew 16:18).
Quite simply, before acknowledging any other association, we acknowledge Jesus (Matthew 10:32). If we are to walk together, we must all walk with Him.