More “Talk” about the Koinonia Project…
Currently under development through the Office of the President of the Synod, the Koinonia Project is basically intended to draw the members of our Synod closer together in our confession of God’s Word. Just that statement alone begs the question – why is the Koinonia Project needed? What are the issues? What’s the real problem?
Some would say, “If only ‘they’ would behave themselves as Christians,” (whoever “they” are!), “our problems would be solved.” Or, “the real problem is those pastors who…” and you can fill in the blank with whatever you think is the malady. Indeed, the Task Force on Synodical Harmony (whose report you can access at www.lcms.org/koinoniaproject) has identified a number of issues, both behavioral and theological. Everyone, it seems, will have their list of reasons why our Synod experiences conflict in our life together. In the Koinonia Project concept paper, also at www.lcms.org/koinoniaproject, we list a few of the obvious theological issues, not to be exhaustive but simply illustrative.
The point is, most people can identify at least some of the problem. Of course, it is also true that how each person (including myself!) evaluates the issues and conflicts will be colored by his or her political biases and expectations. No one should be surprised by this. It’s been part of our life together for a long time. In fact, this phenomenon is one of the clearest examples of the need for an effort like the Koinonia Project. It’s also the source of some misconceptions about the project.
For example, we’ve heard it said: “The Koinonia Project is just a smokescreen for a new purge of the Synod.” “Harrison and Mueller are writing off 15-20% of the Synod.” “This really shouldn’t be difficult – if only ‘they’ would…” “I heard that Koinonia will force people to conform…” “I’m afraid Koinonia will be hijacked by [here insert the group you are afraid of].” “What’s going to happen if we can’t agree?” Perhaps you’ve heard other things as well.
Please read carefully the concept paper and watch the Koinonia Project web site as the project expands and is refined. And please pray for us as we seek to develop and implement the process. There are many possible pitfalls – some listed above and many others we haven’t even thought of. The Koinonia Project is not going to be easy – in fact, it may be the most difficult thing we have ever done together as a Synod, more difficult than any of us imagine. Koinonia will not be quick – we are looking at this as a decade long effort. The Koinonia Project cannot work by coercion but only by attraction to draw people into theological discussion under the Word of God. We will not “paper over” differences, but will seek to deal with them honestly, plainly, clearly from the Word of God and our Lutheran confessions. It also means we will have to be patient with one another and with the process. No one is being written off. Every member of the Synod is welcome. It’s just something we have to do, together. This will take time, but we believe it will be worth it!
We do understand that right now we’ve only been talking in general terms about the project. How it actually works is yet to be demonstrated. Our prayer is that several pilot groups will be active before the Fall of 2011, and that many more will be developed over the next couple of years. Please keep the effort in your prayers and consider your own participation as the project grows. Only God can provide His blessing of koinonia, of life together, and He provides His blessings through His Word. As St. Paul writes, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship (koinonia) of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:9-10 ESV).
Remember the goal (from the concept paper): “All of us constantly need the daily change of heart God works through repentance and faith. The problem belongs to all of us. None of us is exempt. We are each, every last one of us, called to examine our actions and attitudes toward one another so that we confess our sins, trust God’s promise and speak forgiveness to one another. But again, it is absolutely essential that our theological issues are addressed by a thorough process under the Word of God where we come to clear agreement on 1) the points at issue, 2) what we confess together, 3) what we reject and 4) what we will therefore do together, on the basis of Scripture and our confessions. This effort to do so we have chosen to call ‘The Koinonia Project’ because we pray God will build and strengthen our unity in the Word of God and our fellowship, our ‘koinonia’ together.”
+Herbert C. Mueller
First Vice President