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Liturgical Reconnaissance

by Eugene L. Brand (ecumenist, liturgist, servant)

18 November 1998

[published by the ELCA's Division for Congregational Ministries}

The Future of Worship in the ELCA: Exploring the Critical Issues

Orlando, Florida 18 November 1998 (revised after delivery)


Liturgical Reconnaissance is the title of a Fortress Press book edited by Edgar S Brown Jr. It contains the proceedings of an Inter-Lutheran Consultation on Worship held 10-11 February 1966 in Chicago. The purpose of that consultation, held at the invitation of Oliver Harms, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LC-MS), was to assess the liturgical and hymnological situation in American Lutheranism and thus to lay the groundwork for the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW). Since the purpose of our ELCA consultation is similar, it seemed appropriate to use the title again for this keynote address.

Exactly what is the kairos which prompts our consultation here and now? Permit me to let that crucial question hang in the air while we attend to other things. My presentation divides into two major sections: 1) toward the Lutheran Book of Worship (LBW), and 2) toward a Book of Common Prayer.

Toward the Lutheran Book of Worship


As is well known, the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) was established by four North American Lutheran churches(1)[1] upon the invitation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1965. A joint meeting (1963) of the Commission on Liturgy and the Hymnal and the Commission on Worship, Liturgics, and Hymnology precipitated that invitation.(2)[2] The former (CLH) consisted of commissioners from The American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), that was appointed following publication in 1958 of the Service Book and Hymnal (SBH); the latter (SC) was a working arm of the Synodical Conference. The SC was well on the way to preparing a hymnal and service book to replace its 1941 The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH)(3)[3] and, if it had continued on its separate course, would have again put it out of sync with ALC and LCA.(4)[4] At its Detroit national convention in 1965, L-MS adopted a "three-pronged resolution, working toward the production 'under a single cover' of:

  1. a common liturgical section in rite, rubric and music
  2. a common core of hymn texts and musical settings, and
  3. a variant selection of hymns, if necessary." (5)[5]

The usual story has cast ALC and LCA in a condescending posture vis-à-vis LC-MS by saying that even though the SBH had been published just seven years earlier, for the sake of Lutheran unity, they would accept the invitation. That is factual. But the chair of CLH, Henry Horn, suggests that already there had been serious internal criticism of the SBH, making that a contributing factor in accepting the invitation.(6)[6] In other words, the ILCW provided a way out of a stalemated CLH.(7)[7] It is interesting that nary a word on this background found its way into Liturgical Reconnaissance. Taking up Henry Horn's spin on ILCW pre-history, it is clear that SBH had not led to a common position among its participating churches. The kairos, if one can even use that term, for SBH had been hymnological, not liturgical.(8)[8] Edward Horn was certainly correct in his judgment that "early attempts of all our Lutheran bodies in the New World to produce English-language hymnals were inept and sometimes clumsy."(9)[9] The terms in which that judgment is cast should also remind us how recently most of us Lutherans have become an English-speaking church. Work by the Commission on a Common Hymnal was already well under way before a "sister Commission on a Common Liturgy" was created.(10)[10] A mere seven years after publication of SBH, William Seaman, a key figure in compiling it, could approvingly quote George Seltzer regarding the founding of the ILCW as a:

heavensent opportunity to initiate at once a thorough-going revision of liturgical forms, hymn-texts, and music in our present SBH--a revision urgently demanded by recent advances in historical-liturgical studies, advancing and changing musical tastes, and not least, an insistent urge among both clergy and lay people for more relevant and more contemporary materials for use in worship.(11)[11]

Two further observations regarding the essays in Liturgical Reconnaissance are of interest. First, only once is the church's outreach mentioned. At the conclusion of his essay, "The Definition of the Task Before Us," A. R. Kretzmann writes,

What we do must be done in the light of the uncommitted. We exist for those who are not our members. We seek grace of some sort. It must be there in Word and Sacrament for all to see and understand, to have and love, until the worship of earth is finally blended into the praise of heaven.(12)[12]

A remarkable statement for 1966! Second, the essays speak of the challenge of a new, common book in differing ways. Essays from LCA writers note the opportunity to use the best of the ecumenical tradition in making the envisioned book truly American. Essays from LC-MS writers note the importance of confessional integrity, of schooling parishioners in the Lutheran tradition.

The 1966 Inter-Lutheran Consultation adopted resolutions that: 1) restated its own mandate as "to explore the possibilities of preparing common worship materials" - a faint shadow of the three pronged Missouri resolution, 2) endorsed "the purpose prompting that invitation," 3) recommended "the approval of this project," 4) called for its implementation by establishing "an Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW)," 5) provided for proportional funding. An interim committee was to prepare for a first meeting by preparing proposals for procedural details to be adopted by the ILCW itself.(13)[13] The ILCW itself, therefore, was given a huge measure of freedom in defining its work and determining its working personnel. It remained, of course, subject to five discrete churches!


The pre-history of the ILCW has been sketched in some detail in order to document that it did not begin its work ex nihilo. Unlike whatever may eventuate from this consultation, it was the direct continuation of CLH and SC. Had ALC and LCA not established CLH immediately after publishing SBH, there may never have been an ILCW. The work of the ILCW was shaped not only by CLH and SC, however. The task was prepared for and assisted by the Lutheran Society for Worship, Music and the Arts and by the Valparaiso Institute for Liturgical Studies. In its conferences and through its superb journal, Response, LSWMA was the forum for contemporary discussion of liturgical, hymnological and musical issues. With its concurrent emphases on art and architecture, LSWMA was a tastemaker for Lutherans. From its membership came many of those who formed the four working committees of the ILCW. Its role as precursor was underscored, unfortunately, when it fell on hard times after the ILCW became operational. Too many of its most active members became preoccupied with their ILCW assignments.

The Valparaiso Institute, founded in 1948 by liturgical leaders from the English District of LC-MS, soon became pan-Lutheran and then ecumenical in scope. Many in its core group also wrote for the liturgical periodical, Una Sancta. If the liturgical leaders involved in the Common Service tradition betrayed an Anglican bias (eg Luther D Reed), those who formed the Valpo Institute betrayed a Roman Catholic bias (eg Arthur Carl Piepkorn). Both streams flowed together into the work of the ILCW, enriching the mainstream Lutheran heritage that remained foundational.

All this inner-Lutheran ferment was overshadowed by the impact of Vatican II's first utterance, Sacrosanctum Concilium (The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), promulgated by Paul VI on 4 December 1963, and by the work of the Consilium for the Implementation of the Constitution mandated by the Pontiff in the following year. The Constitution encapsulated the thrust of the pastoral phase of the liturgical movement in an official document of the largest of the Christian communions, and thus stimulated the whole Western Church to move beyond the restoration phase.

When the newly appointed ILCW was convened at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in Chicago on 29 November 1966, 23 men (sic) sat around the table representing five churches: ALC, LCA, LC-MS, ELC/Canada and SELC.(14)[14] The Wisconsin Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod that had sent observers to the preliminary Inter-Lutheran Consultation were not participants. Two major decisions were made: 1) Rules of Organization and Procedure were adopted for approval by the churches. 2) The commission organized itself, electing Herbert F Lindemann to the chair, T S Liefeld as vice-chair, L Crosby Deaton as secretary, and Herbert E Kahler as treasurer; it also elected the four working committees - liturgical texts and liturgical music, hymn texts and music for the hymns. All of this was done with careful attention to synodical balances. An editorial policy committee was added later and, over time, the Liturgical Texts Committee established several subcommittees or task forces to complete various assignments: lectionary, psalter, calendar & propers, collects, baptism, confirmation, marriage, burial, penitential rites, rites of Lent and Holy Week, eucharistic prayers, and ordination. The ILCW was served jointly by worship-staff persons who continued to serve even after the appointment of a project director in 1975. Additional church staff was involved in assisting with assembling data and with testing and evaluation of trial-use materials. When you add publishing house staff and the official church review committees, an estimated 200 persons were directly involved in producing the LBW.(15)[15] It was a wide-ranging and open process which insured that there were few surprises when the LBW was finally published.

A Statement of Purpose(16)[16] was adopted by the Commission at its second meeting in Columbus, Ohio:

The mandate which the participating churches have given to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship is to produce common worship materials, both liturgical and hymnological. We find that these churches, sharing a common confessional tradition, are at different levels of liturgical and hymnological development, but that they have in common their involvement in the demands of an increasingly pluralistic and secular society, a rapidly accelerating ecumenical movement, and the numerous new and exciting insights in liturgy, Christian history, and theology.

The ultimate goal of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship is the production of a new, common liturgy and hymnal for the participating churches. As a first step toward that end, the immediate efforts of the commission shall go to prepare common worship materials that are provisional and experimental in character and intended as supplements to existing worship forms in the participating churches. These materials shall include:

  1. liturgical forms that are contemporary in text and music.
  2. hymns that are contemporary in text and music.
  3. contemporary versions of existing worship forms that are common to the participating churches.

The commission shares a concern to re-evaluate and to continue the church's rich tradition of worship and music and to experiment with new and contemporary forms in worship and music. (17)[17]

Several things are worthy of note in this self-generated mandate: 1) the governing phrase in Missouri's Detroit Resolution - "under a single cover" - has vanished. 2) The ILCW regards "the production of a new, common liturgy and hymnal" as its "ultimate goal." 3) The major thrust of the Statement, however, is "to prepare common worship materials that are provisional in character." 4) Inclusion of "contemporary versions of existing worship forms that are common to the participating churches" gave Missouri permission to publish the work it had already prepared as Worship Supplement.

The Statement of Purpose is prescient in acknowledging that the participating churches "are at different levels of liturgical and hymnological development." All in all, however, each participating church contributed its strength. As one who was responsible for asking scores of people to do many things, mostly on a volunteer basis without remuneration, I am happy to say that very seldom was my request refused, and very seldom did people fail to deliver. There was a high degree of interest in the ILCW's work, and it gave the lie to what is often heard among Lutherans - people are not interested in liturgy. Quite the contrary. And people can be passionate about hymns.


Ecumenical Matrix. At this year's Valpo Institute and in the introductory chapter for Encountering God. The Legacy of the Lutheran Book of Worship for the 21st Century, (18)[18] I traced the ecumenical commitment of the ILCW and its influence on the LBW in some detail. Among the Lutheran churches of the world, mainstream Lutheranism in North America occupies a unique position. Not only have we inherited the variegated liturgical and hymnological traditions of European Lutheranism, but our adoption of "prayer book English" and Anglo-American hymnody, immersed us willy-nilly in the ecumenical white water of the 1960s and 70s. Unlike the liturgical revisions of the Lutheran state/folk churches which are our forebears, our revision had to be carried out on the larger stage of the English-speaking world unless, of course, we had opted for a sectarian stance. We were in the stimulating position of dealing not only with other churches on our territory; the English language connected us also with the British Isles, Australia and New Zealand, areas also represented in the Roman Catholic International Commission on English Liturgy.

Building on our experience as observers in the Consultation on Church Union (sic) Commission on Worship, the ILCW took the initiative in convening the Consultation on Common Texts (1967),(19)[19] the North American counterpart of the Joint Liturgical Group in Britain. Directly, and indirectly though the Lutheran World Federation's Commission on Worship and Spiritual Life, the ILCW was in contact with Lutheran liturgical reform globally. The LWF contact also resulted in an ILCW appointment to one of two LWF observer posts in the Consilium for the Implementation of the Sacred Liturgy at the Vatican. Ecumenical involvement in CCT and the Roman Consilium generated a network of persons who were instrumental in forming the International Consultation on English Texts (ICET).(20)[20]

By design ICET was an ad hoc group. That saved it from endless bureaucratic red tape, but it also meant that what it produced had to stand on its own merits. The task of reforming Tudor English liturgical texts from the Coverdale Bible and the Book of Common Prayer was something no church wished to address alone. It is difficult for people who have grown up with the ICET texts to understand what a challenge it was to move from a time-tested liturgical English, honed and polished over four centuries, to a new liturgical English which addressed God as "you." Few of us had any illusions that the ICET texts were the aesthetic equal of their predecessors.

The Revised Standard Version of the Bible - the entire version appeared in 1952, just six years prior to the SBH - had become the standard more quickly than anyone had imagined. Its widespread use meant that for the first time in English, the diction of liturgy was not a mirror image of the biblical readings, and that made the traditional texts seem especially archaic. Edward T Horn III illustrates the disdain of those opposed to this shift in language in his essay, The Preparation of the Service Book and Hymnal:

[Not printing the SBH lessons in RSV text] was justified … on the grounds that the RSV had yet to prove itself in use. There was some, but much less, pressure to rephrase the liturgy itself in the contemporary language of the street, but the attempts to do so were so inferior in literary quality as to be almost ludicrous and we did not give it serious consideration … (italics mine)(21)[21]

By the mid 1960s, however, pastoral concern clearly indicated the need to switch to contemporary idiomatic English. But not to the language of the street. It wanted doing in a worthy matter. The ILCW adopted the ICET texts,(22)[22] thus putting its work in harmony with both the Roman Missal and the various Anglican prayerbooks (and most English liturgies since). Note that with one stroke, changes in the texts of the liturgy rendered obsolete all existing musical settings. At the same time, because they were common texts, ICET enabled the exchange of musical settings from one book to another. The gender issue began to register in the 1970s, and ILCW text work is reflective of that except where "God language" is concerned, or where ICET texts were used, or where classic hymns were left alone.

ILCW's ecumenical commitment also led to the adaptation of the Roman Catholic three-year lectionary, and to the adoption of the two-year daily lectionary and psalter from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and of hymns from the list of the Consultation on Ecumenical Hymnody. Many of the changes in the liturgies for baptism and the eucharist are products of ecumenical scholarship and discussion.

Among the architects of the LBW, at least, ecumenical commitment was not merely the politically correct path nor was it undertaken for utilitarian reasons. Ecumenical commitment was mandated by the ecumenical nature of the liturgical tradition itself. From our beginnings, we Lutherans remained within the liturgical tradition, and no matter what the Lutheran confessions may imply, the liturgical tradition is a major component of The Tradition of The Church. It is not the property of any one communion, not even of the Roman Catholic Church. If, therefore, major changes are made, they should have the support of a broad consensus. They should not done because of momentary fads or the current spin on people's needs. Many of the changes in the LBW were made to restore the plentitude lost in the Reformation split.

Method and Structure. The structure of the ILCW itself has already been noted. Its work was carried out in a dialogical relationship with the participating churches. At first the working committees were issue oriented. They commissioned papers, and they asked staff for bibliographies and historical comparison charts. While these provoked lively debate, it soon became clear that such debate could continue for a long time without the production of any materials. The committees, therefore, shifted to a project-oriented method. Issues were discussed as they arose from the work at hand. This shift also acknowledged the nature of liturgy and hymns: that they are not theological treatises, but tend to be poetic and evocative and are thus susceptible to differing interpretations. This point was driven home by the critique of Contemporary Worship 2, the Holy Communion. Little of the criticism was leveled at the text; virtually all of it was sparked by the theological commentary. Passionate arguments about what a text means are possible between people who remain quite happy to hold that text in common.

Just prior to the Commission's fifth session in April, 1969, the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago hosted a two-day workshop dealing with the emerging work of the standing committees that was open to pastors and other interested persons. In June, 1973, a great five-day conference and public celebration was convened in Minneapolis, attended by thousands of people, to try out and discuss things that were emerging in the ILCW's work. The participating churches jointly sponsored it. Speakers included Joseph Sittler, Henry Horn, James White, Jaroslav Pelikan, Edward Sovik, Daniel Stevick, Wayne Saffen and me; there were fifty-two seminars and workshops, a substantial number of concerts and dramatic presentations and six services of worship, three of them celebrations of the Eucharist.(23)[23]

In October that same year, a theological conference was convened by the Division of Theological Studies of the Lutheran Council in the USA and the ILCW at the request of ALC.(24)[24] Calling for the conference was ALC's way of responding to a resolution from the Luther Seminary faculty calling for an independent theological review of the ILCW's work, a resolution supported by the Philadelphia and Southern seminaries of the LCA. Behind the resolution was a sweeping attack on the liturgical movement among Lutherans by Oliver Olson that focussed especially on the shape of the CW-2 Eucharist.(25)[25] Thus the conference agenda concerned itself mainly with eucharist issues (Jewish roots, Gordon Lathrop; sacrifice, Ronald Hals; Holy Spirit, Robert Jenson), but also included a major presentation by Walter Bouman on Confession and Absolution.(26)[26] This conference served an important purpose in making public the theological background of the ILCW's work, but it did not change Olson's mind.

These examples stand for many to indicate how the LBW process went forward in a heady atmosphere of public interest and passionate debate. In 1975 approximately 34% of ALC, 53% of LCA ,25% of Missouri, and 5% of Canadian congregations returned hymn-use questionnaires in which they were asked to tabulate the hymns they had used between December 1972 to November 1974. In the same year an in-progress and presumably confidential list of "hymns-out" was leaked to congregations as if it were a final proposal. In the next few weeks about 20,000 pointed letters of protest descended on the worship desks of the churches.(27)[27] People cared about their hymns, and I suspect they still do.

The major dialogue with the constituency, however, centered on the series of trial-use publications. From 1969 through 1976, ten Contemporary Worship booklets were issued:

  1. Hymns (1969)
  2. Services, The Holy Communion (1970)
  3. The Marriage Service (1972)
  4. Hymns for Baptism and Holy Communion (1972)
  5. Services of the Word (1972)
  6. The Church Year, Calendar and Lectionary (1973)
  7. Holy Baptism (1974)
  8. Affirmation of the Baptismal Covenant (1975)
  9. Daily Prayer of the Church (1976)
  10. Burial of the Dead (1976).

CW 2, as chief service, was studied most carefully, and it is the publication that provoked Olson's response noted above. CW 9 and 10 generated minimal feedback because of their late publication date.

Together with various studies of church usage - they are too varied and too many to mention here(28)[28] -- feedback from the use of the CW series provided the ILCW with a reasonably accurate reading of where the congregations were liturgically, musically and hymnologically. In its thoroughness and breadth, I believe it was a "first" in the history of developing North American books. But the CW series had another very important function. It offered congregations a sense of participation in the process and gave them a foretaste of the feast to come.

As the manuscript of the LBW neared completion, another link was added to the chain that bound the ILCW to the participating churches - officially appointed review committees. It was these committees which would finally recommend the manuscript to the churches for approval. Having revised their work in light of reactions of various kinds, the working committees submitted it to the commission that sometimes altered it yet again before making the final recommendations to the review committees. The review committees were the gatekeepers to the general assemblies of the participating churches. Actually the review committees saw the material more than once, and revisions were ordered by the ILCW in light of their comments. Only when it was clear that the manuscript would pass muster in the review committees of ALC, LCA and ELC/Canada, did the ILCW submit it formally. The tragic story of the review process in LC-MS remains to be told on another occasion. At any rate it is largely irrelevant to the purposes of this consultation.(29)[29]

It is important to understand the complexities of the inner-ILCW and the inter-church review processes, because a service book and hymnal which must be authorized by church assemblies requires compromise and adroit political maneuvering. The LBW is not the best book the ILCW was capable of producing; it is rather the book that emerged from all the review processes!

Another complicating factor was a midstream shift in what the churches expected from the ILCW. Initially, as we have noted, the emphasis was on experimentation, a process, as Philip Pfatteicher has pointed out, that was in tune with the "Age of Aquarius."(30)[30] And make no mistake, most all of us were infected to a greater or lesser degree.

Though there had never been unanimity in the ILCW on what the end-product should be, many of us entertained the idea that it should be a loose-leaf collection of materials that could easily be updated and tailored to particular cultural needs. The operative concept for the hymn committees was a core of hymns (those required by the liturgy together with heritage items) which would then be supplemented by new or ethnic-specific collections. But toward the mid-1970s the mood changed - the reasons are too complex to deal with here - and the expectation was articulated in terms of a book. The "under a single cover" language of Missouri's Detroit enabling resolution was vindicated. This shift caused serious problems for the hymn committees, for suddenly they had to deal with new material in a way not foreseen. This procedural change precipitated some of the misunderstandings of the hymn lists on the part of the constituency. The shift also meant that a more conservative thrust entered the work of the liturgy committees. It is one thing to produce materials that, if they do not succeed, can be supplanted with relative ease. But a different mindset directs work that needs to endure for several decades.

There was a protracted and heated debate about the format of the hymnal section - should it be "tune-text" or "typical American?" The publishers made clear that it could not be both, and stated their preference for "typical American." Classicists, especially among the musicians, pointed to the nature of the European heritage - tunes sung in unison with improvised accompaniment - and to the superiority of unison singing. Exceptions should be made only where a given harmonization was essential to a particular item. The result, it was noted, would be a book of lesser size. But, as is plain to see, the "typical American" option won out with one sop to the classicists: some hymns would be presented tune only with separate accompaniment. In the end, this pattern often had to give way to considerations of space, since formatting a hymnal is like assembling a huge jigsaw puzzle.

In October, 1976, the fifth ILCW Worship brief could report favorable response to the still incomplete manuscript by conventions of ELC/Canada (June), LCA (July) and ALC (October). In each case the church/executive councils were empowered to give final approval.

Before finishing this section on Method and Structure, I must say a word about the introduction process done by the churches jointly. It was crucial that it be a joint process, and cooperation was excellent. Never before had there been such an effort to introduce a worship book. The whole continent was covered so that leaders in every congregation could participate. There is no doubt in my mind that the immediate reception of LBW was largely due to two factors: 1) the trial-use process and 2) the introduction process.

As the ILCW understood its mandate from the churches, its task included not just what has become the LBW, but also what has become Occasional Services. Work was already in progress on ordination. But as the publication date of LBW approached, the ILCW received its walking papers, and the occasional services were left to others. It was and is my contention - shared by several others - that disbanding the commission was a serious error. The ILCW should have been downsized, and its working committees disbanded, but it should have remained, probably as part of the Lutheran Council. After publication of SBH, the churches appointed a continuing commission. It was just getting its bearings when the ILCW replaced it. Partly because of Missouri's refusal to authorize the book, but also because American Lutheranism seemed officially incapable of recognizing the significance of liturgical issues, the ILCW was disbanded in 1978.

That means that all of the expertise gathered by the commission and its committees was simply dissipated, and that work on a new book will have to start from scratch. More importantly it means that the theological, hymnological and musicological issues which had emerged were simply left hanging. Of course, they have been discussed in the academy, but that is not the same thing. Some of them resurfaced during the process leading to The Use of the Means of Grace (1997) - an excellent piece of work that will influence any future worship materials. But it is an internal document; it is not part of the public face of Lutheranism. The LBW should have become the catalyst for ongoing churchwide discussion of the issues, but the opportunity was missed(31)[31], and we now are not really sure which issues are behind us and which ones simmer, ready to boil again.

Toward a Book of Common Prayer

Out of the ecumenical matrix of the 1960s and 70s has emerged a series of denominational service books whose calendars and lectionaries are highly compatible, and whose eucharist liturgies are remarkably similar. What we have today is an ecumenical counterpart to the situation among Lutherans as they entered the second half of this century. Lutherans were using several different books, but each of them contained the Common Service (1888) which had established itself as the English-language liturgy across the Lutheran spectrum. Liturgically, therefore, it was not difficult to move to SBH. Perhaps there is a lesson here that Lutherans are in a unique position to share. Today we have several different confessional books - Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran - but they all contain virtually the same mass. That suggests to me that the next step could and should be taken ecumenically - to realize in one book what already exists in several. But before looking at a possible strategy, let us survey the Lutheran landscape twenty years after the LBW.


What has been accomplished during the "greening" of Lutheran worship? In answering, we must be modest and acknowledge that many of these things would probably have occurred even without the LBW. Nevertheless, for us the LBW has been the catalyst. In the interest of time, this can be little more than a random, annotated list.

  • An actively engaged worshiping community over which a pastor presides, and where appropriate leadership roles are undertaken by gifted members of that community both lay and ordained. One rarely encounters the clericalist solo style of bygone years.(32)[32]
  • This koinonia style of worship is rooted in Holy Baptism. The dignity and significance of baptism together with the baptismal nature of penance and burial, not to mention the eschatological, sending aspect of the community of the baptized have at least gained a firm foothold. A baptismal orientation has also contributed to lowering the age of "first communion."
  • The centrality in corporate worship of the Holy Eucharist, and its peculiar association with Sunday, are brought closer to Lutheran consciousness and practice in the LBW. For the first time in American Lutheranism, the Eucharist is presented whole as chief service. Truncating it and transforming it into a preaching service is the option. Though the majority of Lutheran congregations still lack a weekly Eucharist - in that sense the issue is not yet resolved - the LBW puts the goal into the hands of parishioners, and thus encourages the practice. It is no small thing to be able to appeal to the authorized book of the church when encouraging congregations to make this move.
  • The eschatological reality of the worshiping community, and eschatology as the primary dimension of the Eucharist find clear expression in the LBW texts. The rediscovery of eschatology in its biblical and patristic fullness is part of the common treasure opened for us in the ecumenical and liturgical movements. Future books may be expected to expand on this fundamental theme that is so crucial to grasping what eucharistic worship is all about.
  • The rites of Lent and Holy Week, especially the Triduum, which could be "gotten in" only by placing them in the relative obscurity of the Ministers Edition, have gained a firm foothold. It is hard to imagine their omission in any future book. In certain respects this is a corollary of the baptismal emphasis already mentioned.
  • The use of catholic in the Nicene and Apostles creeds. Had this been debated as an inner-Lutheran issue, we would still be saying Christian. Arguing from the ecumenical nature of the creeds and from the ICET texts (which exhibited the consensus in the English-speaking world) prevailed and won the day.
  • Reform of the calendar and adoption of the three-year lectionary seem firmly established, and are perhaps the most important ecumenical contribution to our liturgical life.
  • Today it is hard to recall how dramatic was the clean break with classical "prayerbook" English so that God is addressed as you. The task now is to improve upon and develop the liturgical diction, especially in view of gender issues.
  • Singing the psalms has become more widespread than anyone would have imagined in 1978. Unfortunately that cannot be said about the proper offertories.
  • Use of several musical settings to mark seasonal and other changes seems also to be widespread, and has led to the desire for still more settings. While variety in this area is desirable, too much variety can be destructive of deepening the liturgical experience. It is good to remember Luther's admonition, aptly stated in his preface to the Deutsche Messe: "Some have the best intentions, but others have no more than an itch to produce something novel so they might shine before men (sic) as leading lights …"(33)[33]
  • Rubrics cast in descriptive rather than prescriptive language, giving a less legalistic feel to the celebrations


Invocation of the Holy Spirit. Epikletic portions of the LBW baptismal and eucharistic great prayers are compromised to such an extent that they bear little resemblance to classical models. The ALC review committee was convinced that it is improper to invoke the Spirit on such things as water, bread and wine. The Spirit may only be invoked on people. Such an attitude reflects a general Western and particularly Lutheran deficit in pneumatology. We need to pursue further the strategy of SBH, "and with thy Word and Holy Spirit to bless us, and these thine own gifts of bread and wine …"(34)[34]

Confession and forgiveness. Though the LBW offers more liturgical material in this area than any of its predecessor books, its permission to omit the Brief Order prior to the Eucharist is still understood by some as having gone soft on a Lutheran understanding of sin and the Eucharist.(35)[35] It seems that the problem of penance is common to most churches. LBW orders for corporate and individual confession and forgiveness remain unknown in most congregations.

Offertory. The problematic here has its roots in what seems to be a peculiarly Lutheran problem that pits human and divine action against each other. In worship, it is argued, God acts and we receive, but any response can be only a directly causal response to God's action. A sacrifice of praise is allowed, but only if it follows reception of the eucharistic elements. The mass itself cannot be a sacrifice of praise. Since our action has been labeled sacrificial, and since Luther's chief target in the medieval mass was its sacrificial preoccupation, Lutherans easily paint themselves into a corner. (I am convinced that part of the Lutheran problem involves the Germanic term Gottesdienst, for only in German can you convincingly ring the changes on Gottesdienst, Dienst Gottes, and Menschendienst. The Germanic languages have no word with which to translate worship.) If you pursue the Lutheran point to its extreme, you end up with a highly docetic concept of how God acts, and you then find yourself in violation of another major Lutheran point. The question, "Is it Christ's supper or ours?" cannot be answered because if it were not ours, it could not be Christ's. In ceremonial terms, this major issue relates to the offerings both of our substance and of the bread and wine, as well as to the sacrificial language permissible in the Great Thanksgiving. I must leave the matter here, and wish any future commission on liturgy bonne chance!(36)[36]

Eucharistic Prayers. These are a particular instance of the sacrament-sacrifice debate. Luther called the Words of Institution proclamation of the gospel. Obviously proclamation is a word from God to the assembly. Therefore it is wrong to embed the Verba in eucharistic prayer that, as prayer, is a word from the assembly to God. The answer to this issue hinges on the Jewish concept of a thanksgiving, which is prayer and proclamation simultaneously. That is most clear when the presiding minister is facing the congregation across the Lord's table. Since eucharistic prayers have appeared as the preferred usage both in SBH and LBW, they would seem to have a secure place. Whether or not the next book could dispense with the alternative forms in LBW is not at all clear. My guess is that most congregations who omit the eucharistic prayer do it out of time constraints rather than because of theological convictions.

Language is included in this list too because it remains a serious problem. There is general consensus about using inclusive language. But the debate still rages about God-language. The LBW makes a slight gesture toward dealing with the problem in the various collects. The Latin sources often begin with a simple and uninflected Deus (God) or Domine (Lord) which became in English, O God or O Lord. The address often is purely formal, and is not influenced by the antecedent reason. The LBW collects try to vary the form of the invocation to better fit the antecedent reason or the petition. A thorough reworking of the collects would be an excellent ecumenical project, so that they would remain common prayers. But of course the major language issue is the triune name. Though various solutions have been put forward, none seems as yet to have received such general approbation that it could be used in an authorized book. We badly need a solution that is both acceptable and orthodox. And if the solution should involve stepping away from "Father, Son and Holy Spirit," the churches should only take that step together.


Cultural issues were prominent for Lutherans in their period of acculturation to an English-speaking environment. But the present challenge comes from a highly multicultural society in which the fundamental formative influence of Christianity is all but forgotten. The problem of contextualization faced by North American churches differs from contextualization in those parts of the global church only recently planted by missionaries. Their problem is to transform westernized accretions to the liturgy, replacing them with texts, music and gestures from their own cultures so that Christianity is not perceived as an import. They have no previous Christian cultural heritage to preserve. Our problem, on the other hand, is to preserve centuries of Christian culture while, at the same time, being open to general cultural trends. In every effort at contextualization, the fundamental counter-cultural nature of Christianity must remain clear. Worship must not become so much at home culturally that its historic character which links it both with the past and with God's future is lost. Another aspect of the cultural issue is the transcultural character of Christianity - giving expression to its global character. With more knowledge of incarnations of the church other than our own, and with the aid of modern communications, there is likely to be more exchange of cultural expressions than in the past. American Lutheranism should be especially open both to the challenges of multiculturalism and transculturalism since we ourselves have a multicultural heritage.(37)[37]

Ethnic issues are closely related to cultural issues, since addressing them requires openness to cultural diversity. Again, Lutherans should be less challenged by this than, say, Anglicans, because our American Lutheran history has involved moving from ethnic isolation to a multiethnic unity which itself now faces new ethnic challenges from immigrant populations from Africa, Latin America and Asia. And, of course, the challenge from the Native American population continues.

Musical issues need special mention, even though they also are part of the cultural/ethnic challenge. My take is that the so-called worship wars are mostly about music, both liturgical music and hymns. One could say that the LBW opened the way to other-than-chant settings for the liturgy. The LMC found it extraordinarily difficult to find even two settings that met its standards and expectations. Now With One Voice (1995) has expanded the number to four. I am aware, of course, that many congregations are using still other musical settings. WOV Setting 6, like LBW's "Chorale Service of Holy Communion," provides hymn settings, a concept dating back to Luther's Deutsche Messe (1526).(38)[38] In the spring term at Trinity Seminary, I once again examined with the students the liturgical music of LBW and WOV, and my growing conviction was confirmed: the regular use of other-than-chant settings is liturgically destructive, for only in chant is it possible to preserve devotional contact with the texts, to give the texts preeminence. Chant here is to be understood in the broadest possible sense. The moment one is attracted by the music rather than by the text, one is distracted from worship, and we are working at cross-purposes with liturgical formation. I do not understand that to rule out any use of other-than-chant settings. On occasion they can be refreshing and exhilarating, providing some necessary diversity. Occasional use is not destructive because the every-Sunday chant has bored the text deep into people's consciousness. But regular use of other-than-chant settings diminishes the impressive power of the texts and soon leads to the thirst for even more such settings. Whether the path we have taken with the best of intentions is reversible, is anyone's guess, but I think it will be impossible to turn American Lutheran congregations into liturgical churches - as opposed to churches with a liturgy - without getting back to some form of chant.

Hymns present a different musical challenge. They afford the best opportunity for musical and textual variety, and they are the obvious way to express the transcultural dimension of worship. Most congregations have not even begun to explore the rich variety in LBW itself. Nonetheless, the expanded repertoire afforded by WOV is welcome, not least because it reflects openness to styles considered inferior by the ILCW hymn committees. The only issue here, as I see it, is to maintain a balance between the heritage and the contemporary. A congregation that sings only WOV hymns is depriving itself of much tried and true devotional material, and is depriving coming generations of their rightful heritage. American Lutherans have an obligation to preserve the best of their own ethnic heritage.


In a 1984 address to the North American Academy of Liturgy I described today's liturgical consensus as a powerful factor in ecumenical convergence.(39)[39] At the 1988 celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Common Service, I concluded my address by stating my hope that the LBW would be the last Lutheran service book, and that the next book would be a joint production, at least between Episcopalians and Lutherans.(40)[40] Philip Pfatteicher added his voice to the same hope in the Epilogue to his 1990 Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship,(41)[41] noting the importance of Faith and Order's Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. Last spring at the Valpo Institute, I recast my hope into a concrete proposal.(42)[42] It calls for the Episcopal Church and the ELCA to take the initiative to engage English-speaking Anglicans and Lutherans worldwide in working together on a new generation of service books. We are natural partners for reasons of common history, common commitment to the liturgical tradition, common engagement in the issues noted above, and common language. Eventually the project could be expanded to include other parts of the Anglican and Lutheran communions. It is doubtful that English-speaking Roman Catholics could be involved officially, but they should certainly participate as advisors. To the degree that other communions are interested in such an endeavor, they should be welcomed warmly. The product of such a process would make visible what is already true: consensus regarding the mass. Imagine what a boost it would give to church unity!

The second half of this paper has the heading Toward a Book of Common Prayer. Let us not get hung up on the title. I use it for the joint endeavor not only because of the illustrious history of the Book of Common Prayer in the Anglican Communion and its influence on all liturgy in English, but primarily because it so eloquently describes the product I am proposing.


To understand and appreciate the books in our recent past, it is important to ask about the kairos, which called them forth. SBH was a response to a crisis in hymnody. LBW was a response to a crisis in liturgy. At present, if there is a kairos, it would seem to be the perceived need for a vast collection of hymns and, perhaps, liturgical music. If that is so, the appropriate response may lie in an array of supplements rather than in a new book. It is quite conceivable that no longer do we need to work on everything at once because we are making one book. Modern technology may already make books obsolete. In their stead, a variety of optional materials can be made available to congregations electronically. To exercise doctrinal control and also to maintain a clear profile, these optional materials should still be authorized for use by the church/churches. A truly liturgical church needs an authorized liturgical corpus. Pastors and congregations generally have neither the time nor the requisite knowledge and expertise responsibly and faithfully to confront an amorphous bunch of liturgical stuff.

If new materials are prepared jointly, some sort of joint commission will be needed. Such a project requires a broad spectrum of expertise and experience. Acceptance of LBW should have taught us the value of trial-use materials, open process and the involvement of many people in production and introduction. Since 1940, only Lutheran Worship has been done by one Lutheran body alone. All have been inter-Lutheran products. I hope the ELCA will continue that good tradition by creating with the Episcopal Church (and others?) a new joint commission.

But my parting word is this: important as the challenges are, and important as continued ecumenical cooperation is, the crisis facing the ELCA is more fundamental. Are we to continue as the evangelical catholic church to which our confessions testify, a church which understands that being authentic means being apostolic, and that being apostolic has something to do with the centrality of word and sacraments celebrated in an involved community? Put another way, that apostolic means not only expanding but also connecting and deepening? The liturgical tradition is fundamental to the church's continuity, and we are in peril of losing that continuity as congregations try to reinvent the church for numerical growth. Perhaps the proper response to the challenges of today is to grow in depth and to hold fast so that when outsiders are drawn in, there is something for them to grow into.

Words of A. R. Kretzmann at that 1966 exploratory consultation are worth repeating now:

"There must be presented the word and will of God, the seasons that recall the work of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the times that speak of persecution and peace, of purity and purpose, of mission and the social scene. There must be prayers that echo all the agony of martyrs and of saints beneath the cross. There must be praise and thanks that sounds like heaven come down to earth, and beneath it all the steady beat of the ongoing church, doing the will of God for all mankind (sic), bringing the Saviour near to sin-sick hearts. In such a task there are no lines to divide and separate, but only ties that bind and draw and pull to make a unity of hymn and prayer and worship such as the saints have always prayed upon their time and age."(43)[43]


1[1] The American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (Slovak).

2[2] "I [Horn] was the Chair of the Commission on Liturgy and the Hymnal, elected just after the Service Book and Hymnal came out. Two churches were involved in the CLH then: the American Lutheran Church which conceived of its task as a political one and voted as a block, and the Lutheran Church in America which had an inner core of those who had done the work and were protecting it and finishing it, along with a number of persons who voted independently … Having tasted what might come to be, and having heard some of the criticisms of the SBH from the musicians on our committee who yearned for new music, we decided to invite the whole Missouri (Synodical Conference I believe) Commission to our next meeting. At that meeting we surveyed where each of us were in the worship of the church and we concluded that perhaps we could do the thing together with more profit. Walter Buczin (sic), as Chair of the Missouri Commission and I as Chair of the CLH met together to make plans here in Boston. That was really the beginning of the Inter Lutheran effort for from there it went into a resolution on the floor of the Missouri convention and the rest is history." Letter from Henry E Horn to Clifford Swanson, ILCW Chair, 7 November 1978. Private correspondence between Edgar S Brown and the author corroborate this account. Timothy C. J. Quill has recently retold the story using largely LC-MS documentation in The Impact of the Liturgical Movement on American Lutheranism, Drew Series in Liturgy, 3 (Lanham, Md & London, Scarecrow, 1997)

3[3] This material was published in 1969 as Worship Supplement.

4[4] Upon being invited (1945) to join other Lutherans in the work which produced the SBH, the president of LC-MS declined, "possibly because" his church had just published The Lutheran Hymnal. See Edward T Horn III in Brown, Edgar S (ed), Liturgical Reconnaissance (Philadelphia, 1968), 91.

5[5] See A. R. Kretzmann in Liturgical Reconnaissance, 132.

6[6] "[CLH] was an impossible mix and a program had to be developed for it. The program we adopted was: The promotion of the Service Book and Hymnal through further materials, an effort which the ALC took over with the Augsburg Publishing Co.; The finishing of the Handbooks, promised by the publishers, but then vetoed by them - a most discouraging business; The development of an on-going stimulation of liturgical scholarship toward some occasional pamphlets which might lead the church in its worship.

Toward the latter we invited several leading young scholars to criticize the Service Book liturgy. Amazingly, that criticism and the suggested revision is almost the exact revision that the Lutheran Book of Worship suggests …" H Horn to Swanson, 7 Nov 78. See also Note 2 above. Ulrich Leupold saw in the SBH an "excess of hymns of Jesus-devotion," and wished to "throw out all the 'lazy' tunes. By lazy tunes I mean melodies that are neither good nor bad…" He also wished to reduce the number of Victorian melodies from Hymns Ancient and Modern. See Liturgical Reconnaissance, 109. The noted hymnologist Eric Routley was commissioned to review both SBH and TLH.

7[7] Cf Philip H Pfatteicher, Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 1990), 5

8[8] Since 1936 a Common Service Book Committee had been at work in the former United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA), and had submitted its final report in 1944. Rather than accepting the report, the ULCA convention directed its president to invite the other Lutheran churches to join in a common effort in preparation of "a common Lutheran hymnal" (italics mine). Edward T. Horn III in Liturgical Reconnaissance, 91.

9[9] Ibid, 100.

10[10] Ibid, 92f.

11[11] Ibid, 114.

12[12] Ibid, 133.

13[13] For the full text of the resolutions, see Ibid, 134f.

14[14] One ALC commissioner was absent. In time, SELC became part of LC-MS, so LBW was the product of four churches. Regarding this paragraph see ILCW Minutes 66-1-6 + ILCW Appendix A 66-2-3.

15[15] For complete rosters of the ILCW and its working committees, see Pfatteicher, 515f.

16[16] ILCW/XC Minutes 66-5-6.

17[17] ILCW Appendix A 67-1.

18[18] Ralph R Van Loon (ed), Encountering God. The Legacy of Lutheran Book of Worship for the 21st Century (Minneapolis, Kirk House, 1998), 9-21.

19[19] ILCW Minutes 67--14-15. The ILCW resolution acknowledged the pioneer work that had been done under the auspices of "Lutherans at Valparaiso University."

20[20] A memo on the future of the ILCW addressed to Robert J. Marshall, president of the LCA, by Edgar S. Brown, executive of the LCA Commission on Worship, 3 March 1970, testifies to the importance of Lutheran participation as peers in this network.

21[21] E. T. Horn in Liturgical Reconnaissance, 98.

22[22] The final versions are published with commentary in Prayers We Have in Common, 2nd Revised Edition (Philadelphia, Fortress, 1975).

23[23] Presentations in Mandus A Egge (ed), Worship: Good News in Action (Minneapolis, Augsburg, 1973).i

24[24] 1974 General Convention of the American Lutheran Church, Action E 73.3.17, 535f. Cf an as yet unpublished manuscript by Ralph W. Quere, History of the Lutheran Book of Worship, Its Development and Significance for Lutheran Churches in America, 53ff. The Quere manuscript is a mine of information otherwise unavailable.

25[25] Oliver K. Olson, "The Mix Makes a Muddle," Lutheran Standard 12 (June 12,1972), 11. See also his "Liturgy As Action," Dialog 14 (Spring 1975), 112ff

26[26] These papers together with another presentation of his views by Oliver Olson are in Lutheran Quarterly 26:2 (May 1974). Cf. Quere, 53ff.

27[27] ILCW Memorandum, October 1977, contains a summary of information gathered from congregations, pastors, musicians and theologians.

28[28] Other than ILCW minutes themselves, the Quere manuscript contains the only detailed description of the evaluation process. Cf W. Kent Gilbert, Commitment to Unity, A History of the Lutheran Church in America (Philadelphia, Fortress, 1988), 316ff.

29[29] One often hears that LBW would have been quite a different, read better, book had Missouri not participated. But except for the retention of hell in the ICET Apostles Creed, and the deletion of all readings from the Apocrypha (a matter which would have found considerable support elsewhere), I think of no concessions made on the basis of Missouri pressure alone. That is especially true in regard to the number of "chorales" in the hymn collection. The LC-MS story is told, albeit with an anti-ILCW bias by Quill, op cit.

30[30] Pfatteicher, 6f.

31[31] Important steps toward churchwide discussion were taken in the summer institutes cosponsored by the worship offices of ALC and LCA. Among other good programs of cooperative Lutheranism, these seemed to evaporate with the founding of the ELCA.

32[32] A curious contemporary exception is Quill whose ecclesiology includes an almost mediatorial role for the ordained ministers.

33[33] LW 53, 61.

34[34] An inversion of Cranmer's phrase in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer: "and with thy holy spirite and worde vouchsafe to blesse and sanctifie these thy gifts, and creatures of bread and wine." Cranmer here was dependent on the Liturgy of St. Basil. See F. E. Brightman, The English Rite II (Rivingtons, London, 1921), 692.

35[35] Most recently, Quill, 136ff.

36[36] For a recent discussion of this complex issue, see Paul Rorem, Carter Lindberg & Gordon Lathrop in Dialog 35:4 (1988), 247-262. Cf H. Paul Santmeier in Lutheran Partners (May/June 1998), 22-27,38, and Quill, 123ff.

37[37] S. Anita Stauffer has conducted one of the most recent and wide-ranging studies of worship and culture in the Lutheran World Federation. See Worship and Culture in Dialogue (Geneva, 1994) and Worship: Unity in Cultural Diversity (Geneva 1996). The third and final volume from the study is in the works. Cf. Thomas Schattauer, Karen Ward & Mark Bangert, "What does 'multicultural' worship look like?" Open Questions in Worship 7, ed. Gordon Lathrop (Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 1966)p

38[38] The concept is similar, but there is a marked difference in how it is realized. LBW 4, like DM, provides an "ordinary" of specific chorales, while WOV 6 offers an open-ended list of options for each portion of the "ordinary:" some chants, some hymns.p

39 "Ecumenism and the Liturgy," Worship 58:4 (1984), 305-314.

40 "The Lutheran 'Common Service': Heritage and Challenge," Studia Liturgica 19:1 (1989), 94.

41 Pfatteicher, 512. One could now add Faith and Order's Ditchingham Statement (1994).

42 This paper will be published in the proceedings of the Institute, and is also to appear in a forthcoming number of Studia Liturgica.

43 Kretzmann, 131.