This effort is being developed collaboratively to provide a means for studying and confessing the Word of God together with the prayer that God will use this process to resolve issues and behaviors that have been troubling our fellowship, our life together. The President’s Office, the Board of Directors, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations and the Council of Presidents are all involved together in developing this concept. We introduced some ideas in a previous blog post, but here are some further thoughts on the basic values of the “Koinonia Project.” Remember, “koinonia” is the Greek word for “fellowship,” “partnership,” “communion” or “life together.”

Focus on Christ in His Word

  • Our study and discussion are focused on Christ crucified and raised from the dead, confessed in the Word of God, for Jesus Himself “is our peace…” (Ephesians 2:14).
  • We pray we undertake this work with a God-given humility under the Word of God and with much prayer! • We look for integrity with one another before God – honest, heart-felt, open dialog – recognizing we do have problems of doctrine and practice to address together, and praying for that openness to one another God gives as we hear the Word of God and each other.
  • That is why it is essential for this process that we spend time together in the Word of God, in worship, and in prayer with and for each other (fellowship, “koinonia,” in the church’s marks).
  • We will also work together on this, recognizing the nature of the Church as we confess it in the Augsburg Confession – the assembly of believers gathered around the Word and Sacrament.

A Collaborative Effort

  • Collaboration is a basic value for the Koinonia Project – this is not just an effort from the President’s Office, but a process in which many more are brought on board, beginning with the design phase. The project must work by attraction, not coercion, and become an integral part of our life together as a Synod.
  • The project is inclusive, drawing in the Harmony Task Force, Board of Directors, Seminary Faculties, COP and CTCR in some way in the whole process, including design.

Personal and Individual

  • The Harmony Task Force brought a series of recommendations to the Council of Presidents and Board of Directors in November 2010 regarding strategies for restoring harmony among us.
  • Though theological issues are primary, the personal cannot be separated from the theological, for how we deal with one another is ultimately a theological issue. The Report of the Harmony Task Force referenced above chronicles real pain and real concerns that must be addressed spiritually through repentance and forgiveness. Following are the suggested strategies of the Task Force:
    1. Synod-wide studies of the Scriptures and the Confessions, including studies by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, covering specific topics such as; the 8th Commandment, a theology of diversity, Christian virtues and civility, the political culture of the church, accountability and harmony.
    2. Our seminaries and universities include these topics in the formation of our clergy and professional workers.
    3. Training & modeling for and by the Council of Presidents, the Circuit Counselors, and all other church leaders.
    4. A Code of Conduct, developed with input from across the Synod, adopted by the Synod, in which we express common expectations of one another and seek to hold ourselves and one another accountable for appropriate behavior.
    5. Those who are charged with ecclesiastical supervision must be trained to hold us all accountable when our actions and attitudes are inappropriate.
    6. The need for continuing education.
    7. The clergy must recognize their responsibility and engage in working toward greater harmony within our Synod.
    8. The dialog must include all positions, at every level of the church; within our congregations, circuits, auxiliaries, Synod-wide theological convocations and smaller focus groups as well.
    9. Communication is a key issue. We need to learn to use the media appropriately-officially and unofficially.1
  • The Koinonia Project will need to incorporate these recommendations from its inception. Specifically how this will happen will be fleshed out further by the discussion of this paper in the Council of Presidents, the Board of Directors and the CTCR, etc.

Also Broad Based

  • The Koinonia Project is broad based, in the sense that the approach must be replicated broadly across the Synod, and also broadly reported in the sense that, while discussion groups need to have freedom to dialog within themselves without fear, these are not secret negotiations, but at appropriate times the Synod at large needs to hear and support the results of the dialogs, as well as provide input.
  • All-encompassing – every member of the Synod (i.e. every ordained or commissioned minister, every congregation) is eventually invited to participate in the effort.
  • We cannot work by coercion in this project, but always by invitation, fraternal persuasion, and attraction, centered always in the Word of God and our confession, for the sake of the mission.
  • We must begin with those who are willing, drawing in more and more of the skeptical as we move forward. Yes, some may look on the “Koinonia Project” with suspicion, thinking, “this is just another attempt on the part of one group in the Synod to enforce conformity on the rest!” Only as we work together on the project, seeking to proceed in the love we have from Christ (see 1 Corinthians 13:4-7) will such suspicions be alleviated. To this end we much be mutually accountable to one another. We pray God to give us the wisdom to work in the spirit of John 17 where Jesus prays that His church may be one. The work of ecclesiastical supervision must move forward in any case, but we also recognize that if the Koinonia Project is perceived as a means to “purge” the Synod of “undesirables,” it will accomplish little.
  • That’s why, in our next blog post, we will look at how the “Koinonia Project” fits in with the nature of the Synod as explained in Article VII of the Synod’s Constitution.

+Herbert Mueller

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1 Report of the Task Force, pp. 17-18