Lunch With The Saint Louis Archbishop
Today, ecumenical relations between The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis began with a good start when President Harrison had lunch with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Several months ago, Dr. Lawrence Welch, Ecumenical Officer for the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Professor of Systematic Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, contacted Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations for the LCMS, to see if President Harrison would be available to meet with Archbishop Carlson for a luncheon. The Archbishop asked President Harrison to lead the blessing for lunch. After praying for fruitful conversation between separated brethren and that the church may be one as Jesus prayed, President Harrison blessed the food with the prayer from the Small Catechism, “Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” The Archbishop noted that he had used that very same prayer to bless the meal in certain settings. The Archdiocese of St. Louis sent representatives to attend the installation of President Matthew C. Harrison last September. Since then, the LCMS and the Archdiocese of St. Louis has had regular contact on a variety of matters. In particular, both churches are interested in further discussion and possible cooperation in the public square in matters relating to natural law and general morality in society.
Archbishop Carlson is the tenth bishop of Saint Louis and the ninth archbishop of Saint Louis. President Harrison is the thirteenth president of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. The Archbishop and the President had the opportunity to become better acquainted as well as to discuss common challenges both in the area of Christianity in a hostile world and in the area of ecclesial supervision. At one point, the Archbishop described a letter he had received from an individual the other day describing a problem in one of the local congregations. President Harrison replied in jest, “I think I know that person; he sent me the same letter about one of our congregations last week.” Humor aside, there are several challenges shared in common between our churches.
Serving as chief ecumenical officer for the Missouri Synod, President Harrison presented Archbishop Carlson and Dr. Welch with copies of Walther’s Law and Gospel, Lutheran Service Book, Natural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal, and A Little Book On Joy (all published by Concordia Publishing House) to better acquaint them with the Missouri Synod. President Harrison also was able to give a brief description of the Missouri Synod’s emphasis on Witness (martyria), Mercy (diakonia), Life Together (koinonia). Dr. Welch was surprised to learn that Lutherans celebrated the feast of Saint Mary, Mother Of Our Lord (see the blog post). He mentioned that this was a good example for him to use in his class on other church bodies. The Archbishop then asked what other feasts and celebrations Lutherans held, to which we referred them to the front of the Lutheran Service Book for a listing of recognized feast days. Once again, there was a recognition that both churches face similar challenges in the areas of preaching and worship life.
The luncheon concluded with appreciation and thanksgiving for the opportunity to meet and discuss. Drs. Welch and Collver agreed to remain in contact and to follow up on a couple of items from the meeting. A theme repeated in the meeting is that church bodies actually come closer together by honestly recognizing the differences between them and when each respects the other and allows the other to hold its position with integrity. The Archbishop noted that true unity is a gift from the Holy Spirit and not the result of our own efforts; however, it does not mean that we ought not talk to one another. Thank you Archbishop Carlson for your gracious invitation to lunch. Thank you Dr. Lawrence Welch for facilitating this meeting.
Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D.
Director of Church Relations — Assistant to the President