Purpose:   The “Koinonia Project” is a long term initiative of the Office of the President of the Synod developing spiritual and theological solutions under the Word of God for some of our long term spiritual and theological issues in the Synod. The project fosters theological study and discussion groups at many levels designed to bring together capable and respected people to study God’s Word and the Confessions of our church so that, by God’s grace, we come to clear agreement on 1) the points at issue, 1 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.

During the present triennium, we have been developing a number of pilot projects as outlined below. Actually, the “Koinonia Project” will become, we pray, an opportunity for a cultural shift among us, a positive change in our shared expectations.

A Concept Paper for the project is available on the Synod’s website, www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=1041. The effort arises from the work of the “Harmony Task Force” appointed in response to 2007 Synod Resolution 4-01A and from a paper produced by President Matthew Harrison in 2009 entitled “It’s Time.” The “concept paper” has been reviewed a number of times by the Synod Praesidium, by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), by the Council of Presidents and by an “advisory group” of pastors and district presidents.  A final draft will be put up on the website soon.

Advisory Group:  Pastor Wally Arp, St. Luke’s, Oveido, FL;  Pastor Allan Buss, Immanuel, Belvedere, IL; President Terry Forke, Montana District;  Pastor Wayne Graumann, Salem, Tomball, TX; President Dale Sattgast, South Dakota District;  Pastor Harold Senkbeil, New Berlin, WI;  President Anthony Steinbronn, New Jersey District (chosen while he was a district executive). This group has met several times by phone with First Vice President Herbert Mueller to discuss drafts of the concept paper and communicating the concepts more broadly. More evaluation and expansion are needed.

We Are in a “Pilot Phase”:  At present we are trying several different approaches to see what works best. Pilot Projects are active in several districts – Nebraska, Northern Illinois and South Wisconsin. The Council of Presidents and the CTCR are helping with the concept and evaluations. Several circuits in various districts are also developing as “Koinonia Project Theological Study Groups,” circuits in Texas, Ohio and Kansas. We have been speaking in several other districts – Northwest, Wyoming, Rocky Mountain, Minnesota South and are looking to develop groups in those areas. We are working with local district leadership to design what will be most helpful in each context. In so doing, we want to learn as much as we can with these pilot projects.

What About the Future?  We are just getting started. Just barely. This is a long term effort. Our theological faculties are being drawn into the process. The Office of the President is involved in Koinonia-like study projects. The Advisory Group will be expanded. Much work needs to be done to take this to the next level. More publicity within the Synod. Receive reports on how the various pilot efforts are doing. Develop a website that can be regularly updated with information about the “Koinonia Project.” Develop more resources, particularly Bible Studies. Develop cross-district efforts. Develop ways to share results of studies across the Synod, ways to collate and bring together these results. Involve colleges and seminaries more deeply. A new draft of the concept paper will be published soon. How will the work of local groups be expanded nationally, or at least more broadly? Watch this space for future information. Keep it in your prayers!

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President, LCMS

 


[1] In concert with the approach of the Formula of Concord, agreeing on the specific points at issue is the first and most important step toward genuine resolution of controversy and the restoration of concord.