‘Remember your roots,’ Lutherans told at Georgia conference
PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. — A renowned British scholar cautioned some Lutheran leaders last week not to lose the “treasure chest” of beliefs they’ve inherited from Martin Luther, who led the Reformation in the 1500s.
Alister McGrath, a professor at Kings College in London, was the keynote speaker at an international conference on theology. The gathering was sponsored by the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS), an American denomination, according to a news release sent to this newspaper.
The three-day conference was attended by 120 church leaders who represent 20 million Lutherans in North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.
Participants at the conference represent “more conservative” Lutheran churches, according to the Rev. Larry Vogel, associate executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
McGrath, although he’s not a Lutheran, described himself as having “fallen in love with Luther” because of the clarity with which the Reformation leader described the relationship between people and God. Luther said we are “justified” or forgiven because of Jesus, in whom God’s loving heart for us can be seen, McGrath said.
Vogel said McGrath emphasized the need to do more than simply repeat traditional formulas that came out of the Reformation, such as “justification by faith.” He said such language is no longer understood by many people today.
What’s needed, according to McGrath, is to translate such concepts into terms
that make sense now, Vogel said. It’s needed so that modern people will understand that “the saving work of Christ which reveals God’s forgiving acceptance is the great truth we need today in order to be able to live with confidence, peace, and joy.”
McGrath also talked about Luther’s “theology of the cross,” Vogel said. It “shows that faith in Christ sustains people especially in times of trouble and suffering. Human beings are shaped and matured not by life’s easy times, but by passing through testing and trials with faith in Christ and in his willingness to take on human suffering and death.”
At the conference, such matters as marriage and sexuality, the authority of the Bible and the church’s work of responding to human needs were discussed.
Among conference speakers was the Rev. Jobst Schoene, a retired bishop of Germany’s Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church.
Speaking on “life together,” Schoene said, “we are linked together as Lutherans who take their confession seriously.”
He told those attending the conference, “There is still a lot to do: more exchange, for instance (in) theological discussion, exchange of teachers, of servants in the ministry, (and) the practice of intercommunion and intercelebration where there is doctrinal agreement. And if that’s missing — to work for such agreement.”
The International Conference on Confessional Leadership, as the gathering was called, was held in Peachtree City, which is about 20 miles south of Atlanta.
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