Letter on the Augsburg Confession
The following letter was sent to 2013 LCMS Convention delegates from President Harrison.
Patrick, Missionary to Ireland, A.D. 2013
March 17, 2013
Grace and peace in Jesus!
In this second mailing we are providing you with a copy of the Augsburg Confession (1530) with some explanatory notes, taken from the wonderful Concordia, The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord (CPH, 2006).
I am asking you to carefully read this brief and basic confession of our Lutheran Church. The section, “Confessional Subscription: An Evangelical Act,” explains why we all subscribe to this confession. The Bible is God’s Word to us. The confession is our response to God, and before all people, regarding what we are convinced the Bible teaches about Jesus. “But you, who do you say that I am!” (Mark 8:27; cf. Heb. 4:14; 10:23; Rom. 10:10; 1 John 2:23). The thrust of the Augsburg Confession is about keeping the Gospel front and center. This confessional standard is enshrined in the constitution of all of our congregations, in our Synod’s constitution, and is solemnly subscribed to by all of our church workers when they are ordained, commissioned, and installed.
Luther claimed the content of the Augsburg Confession as his own work, even though his sidekick, Philip Melanchthon, wrote it. But in a real way it is the great layman’s confession, being signed by the Lutheran princes. It speaks to a context that was heavily Roman Catholic, as the European empire at the time was officially Roman Catholic. It does, however, also mention and reject some teachings of the more radical Protestants.
Herman Sasse often pointed out that in Lutheran churches where people said, “I don’t want to hear the Confessions, just give me the Bible,” the authority of the Bible, too, was soon lost. That is because our Augsburg Confession takes the Bible seriously. And as you’ll see, or be reminded (I’m re-reading it, too, pastors!), the Augsburg Confession is finally a very pastoral document, aimed at delivering the Gospel to people troubled about their salvation.
We must never allow the Augsburg Confession to be pitted against “mission,” or vice versa. The Augsburg Confession is a solid confession of the teaching of the Bible, and a great aid and incentive for us to share the Gospel and all its teachings with the whole world.
As you read the “Augustana” (as it’s sometimes called), you will no doubt recognize the very broad agreement we have in the Missouri Synod on many, many topics. There will also be areas where our confession will challenge us to improve our teaching and practice for the sake of the Gospel.
I hope you enjoy it! You remain in my daily prayers, and I covet yours.
Blessings in Jesus,
Pastor Matthew C. Harrison
President, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
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