The Society of the Holy Trinity
A Pastoral Society
Ordained to the Ministry of the Word and Sacraments in Christ's Church, called to such an office in Lutheran churches, we form together an ordered society of pastors. We commit ourselves to gather regularly for hearing the Word, celebrating the Lord's Supper, prayer and theological reflection. We will gather to help one another to be faithful to the promises spoken when we were ordained. Specifically, we will
- Work together to shape a parish pastoral practice consistent with the catholic Faith as formulated in the canonical Scriptures and confessed in the ecumenical Creeds and Lutheran Confessions.
- Provide one another with the opportunity for private and personal confession and absolution, so that we may enjoy the true "mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren" and, in turn, become faithful confessors for others.
- Challenge and encourage one another to live in obedience to Jesus, seeking to live as examples to the faithful and to adorn with holy living the Ministry entrusted to us.
- Engage one another in disciplined reflection on the mysteries of the Faith, sharing our learning in the Scriptures, the Creeds and the Confessions, as well as Christian theology and literature -- desiring to glorify God with our minds and to be more faithful and learned teachers of the Faith.
- Recover an ecclesial and pastoral piety, shaped by a daily discipline of prayerful meditation on the Holy Scriptures.
- Gather regularly in retreat and engage in mutual parish visitation, in order to fulfill the commitments of the society.
In the parishes we serve, we will seek to shape our exercise of the Ministry by catholic and confessional standards. Specifically we will
- Preach the Word of God and minister the sacrament of the Altar on Sundays and other holy days and whenever there are those who will gather to hear and receive.
- Baptize in the Name of the Father and of the Son and ofthe Holy Spirit, and in no other name and with no other words.
- Preside at the Holy Communion leading the faithful according to the orders and texts of the church as provided in authorized books of worship.
- Offer regular opportunities for private and personal Confession and Absolution to the faithful with instruction in the use of the means of grace.
- Pray the daily office and provide instruction and opportunity for the faithful to pray the daily prayer of the Church.
- Provide sound catechesis for all candidates for baptism and Confirmation, and their sponsors, guided by the catechisms of the Church catholic and especially Luther's Small and Large Catechisms.
- Provide regular instruction in Scripture, doctrine, prayer, liturgy, and morals for adult Christians, that the faithful may be prepared to account for the hope that is in them and may grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ.
- Engage in regular visitation with parishioners in order to provide the Word and the sacraments to the troubled, the sick, the dying and those who need counsel, admonishment, or discipline.
Affirmations and Distinctions
Such commitments are made in a context. Remembering that Luther spoke of theology as the art of making crucial distinctions, we point to a number of interlocking confusions at work in our own cultural and religious milieu, including the Lutheran churches. We have seen the heavy toll pastors pay for such confusion (with spouses, families and congregations) -- discouragement, disorientation. even ruined vocations. It is in part our struggle with such confusions in our own parishes and in the wider church that brings us together. We name the following confusions and make clear the following affirmations.
Concerning the Name of God: When the revealed Name of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, is confused with human theological ideas, images, or mental projections, or when this Holy name is regarded as simply one name among others, then the whole economy of salvation is obscured, religious discourse about God gets uprooted from the biblical narrative, the mystery of God is rendered unspeakable, and true Christian worship and prayer is silenced. in the midst of such confusions, we affirm the uniqueness and authority of the Name of God revealed in Christ: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Concerning the Mission of the Church: When church and world are confused one with the other, then the Gospel is reduced to a program of social renewal, historical transformation, or personal/political empowerment. Pastors become absorbed in a worldly activism. The Church is defined as the instrument of worldly ideologies or righteous causes. Law is confused with Gospel. Human effort is confused the saving work accomplished by God alone, and the work of evangelization suffers. Against such confusion. we affirm the unique identity and call of the Church, living under the Gospel as sign and herald of God's eschatological Salvation.
Concerning the Ordained Ministry: When the distinctiveness of the Ministry of the Word and the Sacraments is obscured by a culture-bound egalitarianism, by anti-clericalism, or by pastoral loss of nerve, then the training and work of pastors loses its focus and center. The ordained Ministry becomes a "helping profession," or pastors become mere denominational shopkeepers. Amid such confusion, we affirm the God-given distinctiveness of the pastors call and state of life.
Concerning Revelation and Authority: When the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is confused with human religious aspiration, creativity, and experience, the universality and uniqueness of Jesus Christ are compromised, the biblical Word is relativized, and the doctrines of the Church are judged by extraneous standards. Amid such confusions, we affirm the Lordship of Jesus over human religion, the authority of the Bible in theological formulation, and we look to the orthodox Christological and Trinitarian dogmas of the Church as true and authoritative expressions of the apostolic and catholic Faith and as faithful boundaries for theological reflection.
Concerning the Magisterium in the Church: When the teaching office in the Church is suppressed in the name of democratic participation or in the spirit of a North American anti-elitism, when the dynamic discernment of the gifts of the Spirit for the building up of Christ's body is supplanted by the rigorous application of proportional representation and a false understanding of the priesthood of all believers, then church assemblies become a battle ground in the "culture wars," and competition between ideologies of the left and the right replace the quest for truth based on Scripture, creeds and Confessions. We affirm Article 14 of the Augsburg Confession which states that no one should publicly teach the Word of God in the churches without a regular call. We believe this call is from God through the Church, properly exercised by bishops, pastors and theologians. We believe that pronouncements on the faith and practice of the Church adopted by assemblies that are dominated by those who have no public teaching office undermine the right use of teaching authority in the Church. And we commit ourselves to work for changes in constitutional documents of church-wide bodies, judicatories, and congregations that give proper place to the teaching office.
Concerning the Law of God: When under a false conception of gospel freedom or because of ignorance or unfaithfulness, the law of God is not preached and taught, then the moral life of Christians and of the civil community is undercut, men and women under judgment are not brought to repentance, and the saving Word of the Gospel is rendered meaningless. Amid the present neglect of both the concept and content of God's law, we point to the call to holy living in the Old and New Testaments. We affirm that moral struggle and transformation are not incidental to life in Christ. and we commit ourselves to preaching and teaching the whole Word of God, Law and Gospel.
Concerning Right Order in the Church's Worship: When the gatherings of the faithful for prayer and worship are subject neither to catholic tradition nor authoritative church norms, when no order and no text is regarded as authoritative, then congregations are left to the preferences of pastors. the initiatives of publishing houses, or to popular fads. The worship of the Church becomes overly individualized, even chaotic; worship becomes subject to ideological manipulation, and the unity of the churches is injured. In the midst of such liturgical confusion, we commit ourselves to the common liturgy -- to the orders and texts handed down by the Catholic Church of the West, received by the Lutheran reformers, and more recently by North American Lutherans in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), Lutheran Worship (1982), Liturgia Luterana (1983), Christian Worship (1993), their predecessor books and related materials.
In repentance and prayer, we welcome one another in Christ and form together a pastoral and priestly society, a living oratorium, for the renewal of the office to which we have been called and to the honor and praise of Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Ordained Ministers subscribed:
John R. Hannah
Mark A. Hoffman
Phillip M. Johnson
Leonard R. Klein
John D. Larson
Michael C. D. Mc Daniel
James A. Nestingen
Frederick J. Schumacher
Frank C. Senn
Louis A. Smith
William S. Wiecher
J. Larry Yoder
Copyright © 1997-2015 Society of the Holy Trinity. All rights reserved.
Last updated/corrected – 26 September 2015
Home Page: www.societyholytrinity.org