Four Percent

A word to Lutheran pastors who, like myself, have become convinced that the traditional Lutheran (and universally Christian down to 1930) teaching against contraception is correct: Don't expect super fantastic results when you start preaching and teaching this and don't be discouraged when you don't get them.

The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States are meeting this week in Baltimore. To their credit, the Roman Church has stood steadfast in the traditional Christian teaching regarding contraception (the teaching Luther, Chemnitz, and the Missouri Synod down to the mid-20th century shared with them). As this story details, according to the bishops' own survey, only four percent of American Roman Catholics are living out this teaching.

Four percent! Only one in every twenty-five people who have heard this teaching their whole lives from their church have accepted it. How much "success" should we expect when our folks are probably hearing it for the first time?

So don't be discouraged. Be patient. As opportunity arises teach on the topic slowly. But don't be put off by a slow "conversion rate."



John Schmidt said...

Also, don't be surprised if you get run out on a rail for trying to put this view forward in your congregation. It is not the position of The LCMS and so, if you truly wish to make this your hill to die on, be prepared for the worst possible scenario consequence.

Pr. David Rufner said...

John, I do not wish or pretend to speak for Pastor Curtis but I would like to reply to your comment.

You are right when you say that in one sense this is not the LCMS position. But I would vigorously contend that what little position the LCMS has is rooted in quietism,gospel reductionism, and even hints of gnosticism - not the Word of God and the the Historic position of the church when and where it has faithfully followed the Word.

In reference to "your hill to die on"... I do not believe that this is a hill to die on. There was only one such hill and the one and only death has already taken place there. This topic is, however, forever tied to that hill through the marriage covenant with Christ Jesus and us the church. Is the topic of this blog that hill or THE Gospel? No. But it is tied to it in such a way that to publicly teach incorrectly on the matter (or in the case of the LCMS - to remain quiet on the matter) runs the risk of maligning and undermining the Gospel itself.

There is a way to obstinately, doggedly, and harshly teach on this topic. And then there is the way of the Gospel itself which goes to calvary, the empty tomb, the resurrection, Pentecost - Christ & His Bride the Church & their offspring, and finally into our own homes and our own marriages and families.

Certainly prophets and apostles have died on this hill, but never has this been the 'worst possible scenario'. Rather,these are sufferings they have rejoiced in as through Baptism their lives are hidden in Christ.

Anonymous said...

One interesting thing about that 4 percent statistic is that it doesn't necessarily tell us about the other 96 percent of childbearing-age married couples.

How many of them don't use any birth control at all -- natural or otherwise?

When my LCMS pastor took my husband and I through pre-marital counseling, he talked to us about natural family planning.

But we struggled because all the source documents he was using to convince us of this practice indicated something more along the lines of "no" family planning rather than "natural."

He told us we were more than fine to think this way.

Anyway, my point is that maybe an additional percentage (though likely very small) don't believe in natural family planning OR artificial birth control.

Also, about the point of this post, my pastor preaches against birth control but does it in a manner that is very kind and understanding. I think his patient preaching and teaching has done more to help young couples in our congregation eschew birth control than if he came out guns blazing about the same.

A friend who just told me she got pregnant said she decided to stop using birth control because of pastor's teaching and preaching.

John Schmidt said...

All pious words, of course. Let me be more plain.

If you advance the notion in your parish that the use of contraception is sinful, wrong, contrary to God's will, no matter how nicely you go about it, you should not complain when the parish chooses to remove you as their pastor.

This view if NOT the position of The LCMS, so if you choose to make this an issue in your parish, you must simply be prepared to removed from your ministry.

Hope that's plain enough.

Pastor H.R. Curtis said...

Mr. Schmidt,

Thank you for your comments. You make a fair point regarding the official teaching of the LCMS. But I wonder: hasn't the LCMS changed positions before? Examples: birth control for one (I can post a long series of quotes from official LCMS publications in the 19th and 20th centuries that show the LCMS was once quite against contraception); for another, women voting in voters assemblies.

Now at some point in time, those "official positions" changed. Before a given position changed there was a group of pastors who disagreed with the "official position." Their task was to do so in a persuasive and kind way and argue their case from Scripture and the Confessions. To my knowledge, before 1969 when the LCMS changed positions on women in voters meetings, no one was kicked out for thinking women should get the vote. Likewise, to my knowledge no one has been kicked out today who disagrees with that 1969 decision, even though many do.

Such is the way of the LCMS. Despite the harsh critiques we endure from the left, we are really quite a tolerant church body - and in a good sense: we allow for discussion and dissent and for time to bring a conensus based on the Word of God. On many issues this approach would be wrong (for example, we can't go around tolerating pastors who think Jesus isn't God!). But on a host of other issues less central to the faith (birth control, women voters, chalice vs. individual cup, liturgical vs. contemporary worship, etc.) a slow process of tolerance, polite dialogue, and respectful argumentation is called for.

Today some pastors disagree with the LCMS' "official position" or lack thereof regarding contraception. We hope that the LCMS will change positions on this point once again back to its original stance. In the meantime, we will respect the Synod's official teaching even while we make arguments that it ought to be changed - just as those before 1969 operated in regard to women in voters' meetings.

The LCMS makes no claims to infallibility like the pope - and she has changed positions in the past. I think this is a strength and not a weakness.

In Christ,

Pr. M. L. F. Freiberg Sr. said...

The FAQs section of The LC-MS website, with regard to contraception, reads in part:

Q. What is the LCMS stance on voluntary contraception?

A. The LCMS does not have an official position on "voluntary contraception" or voluntary childlessness. However, in its 1981 report on Human Sexuality: A Theological Perspective (which has been "commended to the Synod for study and guidance"--1983 Res. 3-15), the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations makes the following statement...

I think this is helpful to remember in view of what has been stated here. There have been writings for and against the practice of contraception throughout the history of Synod via its official publications. At the same time, to my knowledge, it has not adopted in convention an official position on the subject. This being the case, the clergy and laity may certainly approach this matter from the "minority" viewpoint and not be going against the Synod.

By the same token, I think Mr. Schmidt's statement about this topic being "your hill to die on" should be given serious consideration. A positon that questions contraception or holds that contraception is wrong is quite alien to the majority of Synod (clergy and laity). As such, the discussions should be carried on with great care and patience.

Pr. M. L. F. Freiberg Sr. said...

In view of the previous comment by Pr. Curtis on the matter of the Synod's "official positions," here is a little tidbit from Mo. Synod history. The quote is from Dr. Arthur C. Repp Sr., former professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He made these remarks in the months leading up to the Seminex affair in February 1974.

"...the Synod has always been regarded merely as an advisory body, particularly with reference to doctrine and matters of conscience. Here, again, Dr. [Franz] Pieper warned us Lutherans against the tendency to make Synodical resolutions binding, calling it a Roman leaven. When the Synod in delegate convention is moved to adopt a doctrinal statement by majority vote, it is merely expressing the conviction of the majority of delegates present at that place and at that time. We need, of course, to honor the doctrinal content of such statements as expressing the views of brethren in fellowship with us. But disagreement with such a resolution ought not to affect that relationship. Therefore we regard it as unLutheran, unconstitutional and contrary to the advisory nature of the Synod. We must, therefore, emphatically reject the present tendency to make Synodical resolutions of a doctrinal nature binding on the members of the Synod."
-Arthur C. Repp Sr., 1973