Archive for July 2013
After nearly fifty years in which there had been virtually no official contact between WELS and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (our former partner in the Synodical Conference), lines of communication have been opened once again. One point of contact has been at the Emmaus Conference, held annually in Tacoma. [A free conference is a forum for theological discussion that does not involve or imply fellowship.] LCMS President Matthew Harrison and the presidents of WELS and the ELS have been presenters at these conferences.
When WELS suspended fellowship with the LCMS in 1961, the synod convention resolved in part that continued theological discussions should take place in an effort to heal the breach that had occurred. Such theological discussions never happened due to the circumstances following the end of the Synodical Conference. Last December that changed. With the full support of the Conference of Presidents and the Commission on Inter-Church Relations (CICR), representatives from the LCMS, WELS, and the ELS met for three days for informal talks. The agenda for the meeting was simple: Where do we fully agree? Where do we still disagree? Are there mutual caricatures or misunderstandings that we can correct? These talks were no intended to be full doctrinal discussions; nor were they understood to indicate that a restoration of fellowship would be possible in the near future. Even if the restoration of fellowship is not possible in the near future, we believe it is our responsibility to each other and to God to strive for true unity based on full agreement of doctrine and practice. All involved concluded that the discussions were fruitful and beneficial. A second meeting is planned for December This convention may want to consider a resolution encouraging the continuation of these contacts. (President Schroeder noted that the LCMS passed such a resolution seeking for conversations with WELS and ELS.)
I am happy to report that earlier this month President Harrison was overwhelmingly re-elected to serve a second term as president of the LCMS. I believe that his leadership has been a blessing to his synod and that God will continue to use him for his purposes. I also want to note that, while WELS has sent observers to the LCMS conventions for many years, we have not had the pleasure of welcoming LCMS observers — until now. At our convention are three representatives of the LCMS. Dr. Albert Collver III (Director of Church Relations), Rev. Jon Vieker (Senior Assistant to the President), and Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations).
These men have come because the leaders of the LCMS have a sincere interest in our synod and in the work that we are doing. We appreciate the respect that these and other leaders of the LCMS have shown to our Synod. We pray that their time among us will be mutually beneficial. Please give them a warm and cordial welcome.
— posted on 30 July 2013 by Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Location:Waldheim Dr,New Ulm,United States
After the service was over, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary Society (LWMS) conducted a flag ceremony demonstrating the mission work of the Wisconsin Synod around the world. This practice serves to educate the delegates of the Wisconsin Synod about their Church partners and the location of their mission work. This is an idea that might be adapted for the Missouri Synod. Of interest was that some of WELS mission work began jointly with the Missouri Synod during the days of the Synodical Conference. Other of their work began immediately following the break up of the Synodical Conference.
The Wisconsin Synod vividly remembers the Synodical Conference (the fellowship of the Wisconsin Synod, Missouri Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and Slovak Synod). In fact, the Wisconsin Synod’s hymnal Christian Worship published in 1993 notes:
“The story of Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal actually began in 1953 when the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) initiated work on a revision of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941), the hymnal shared by the synods constituting the Synodical Conference. In 1959 the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) accepted the invitation to share in the revision work. In 1965, however, the LCMS abandoned this project in favor of a new pan-Lutheran hymnal, leading to the publication of Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982).”
Based on conversations with people in the Missouri Synod, it does not seem that memories of the Synodical Conference is in the forefront. The preface to the WELS hymnal is correct. The LCMS became enamored with pan-Lutheranism, some of which led to the events of Seminex and the production of a hymnal unusable by much of the Missouri Synod (Lutheran Book of Worship).
In 2013, WELS sent observers to the LCMS convention. Likewise, the LCMS sent Dr Albert Collver, Rev Jon Vieker, and Rev Larry Vogel to the WELS convention.
May The Lord grant fruitful and ongoing contact with WELS.
The 2013 LCMS convention adopted a resolution to seek contact with both WELS and ELS.
The resolution reads:
To Encourage Further Discussion with Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and Evangelical Lutheran Synod
Report 1-7; President’s Report, Part 2 (CW, p. 10; TB, p. 23)
After more than 50 years, mostly of silence, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) held informal discussions in late 2012. Although differences exist between the church bodies, the informal discussions demonstrated that there is a basis to explore further conversations between the churches. When WELS suspended fellowship with the Missouri Synod in 1961, the president of WELS was charged with seeking opportunities to continue the conversation with the Missouri Synod.
WHEREAS, the Synodical Conference (fellowship of LCMS, WELS and ELS) was a great blessing to confessional Lutheranism both in America and throughout the world; and
WHEREAS, although the Synodical Conference dissolved, many commonalities still exist; and
WHEREAS, since the ending of the Synodical Conference there have been few opportunities for discussion between the LCMS and the WELS and the ELS; and
WHEREAS, the President of the WELS has been charged with seeking opportunities to continue the conversation with the LCMS; therefore be it
Resolved, that the President of the LCMS seek opportunities to continue the conversation with the former members of the Synodical Conference.
Attending the WELS convention in New Ulm is the first step in fulfilling this resolution.
– Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations on 30 July 2013.
– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone
Location:Waldheim Dr,New Ulm,United States
I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Christian Church; the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. AMEN
Having spent 26 years in the Army chaplaincy, I did not have the opportunity to engage in Synod’s conventions. So, this was my “maiden voyage.” I thought that I would share my thoughts about the convention with you from my perspective as a Lutheran who ministered in a religiously diverse environment often supervising and being supervised by folks who did not share a Lutheran worldview. What joy there was to be among such a great cloud of witnesses!
The past week was a pinnacle moment of life together as Synod. In convention, men and women from every district and circuit met to share in worship and prayer, engage in discussion and collaboration, and define processes and procedures to enhance walking together as one people united in baptism. This unity of so many is cause for celebration.
There is cause for celebration for we as Synod believe and confess that there is one Savior, Jesus Christ, and that He, alone, atones for sin and justifies sinners. There is cause for celebration in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. There is cause for celebration for the unity we share in the Confessions of the Church.
This unity is strength in time of suffering and persecution. As the culture rapidly moves away from traditional Christian values, the Church will find consolation in this unity. She will prevail standing united under the cross of Christ.
Some may suggest that the gathering of the Synod in convention was less than a perfect unity. If one assesses voting on resolutions as perfect unity, all resolutions passing or failing by 100%, no one may argue the point; however, this seems to lose sight of the Synod in the world and within Christendom.
There is not perfect harmony in the Church militant. After all, Synod is comprised of sinners redeemed by the atoning work of Christ. Sinners called to faith in baptism gathered together to do the work that Christ bids them—congregations, circuits, districts, Synod–one in Christ living together in this world of sin until that time when our Lord returns in glory.
There is cause for rejoicing. We who are many are one in Christ Jesus. This unity is a living testimony to the world, and this convention was a testimony to the Gospel that Christ calls, forgives, and loves sinners. Few in Christendom share such a profound unity.
St. Paul reminds the Corinthians of our unity. He writes:
For even as the body is one and [yet] has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. But now there are many members, but one body. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
Thank you for this moment to share with you as a member of the body of Christ, and may this be a moment for remembering who we are as one people—one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
Sola Dei Gloria
Gregory K. Williamson
Chief Mission Officer
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
[Note: Wednesdays here at the International Center we work through the catechism, week by week. Today we focused on the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, with Chaplain William Weedon as preacher. This was exactly the Word of God I needed to hear, so we wanted to bring it also to you. Blessings – Herbert Mueller]
Text: Galatians 5:16-25
It’s a battle of the Kingdoms. The Kingdom of this world as it now is. The Kingdom of God as this world will finally be at Christ’s return. You heard St. Paul describe them in the reading. The one characterized by works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality (living for pleasure, hedonism), idolatry (trying to squeeze eternal life out of the stuff of this fallen world), sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and (he’s not even giving an exhaustive list!) things like these. That’s the world we live in. That’s the world that lives in us all since the Fall.
But the world that will be, the Kingdom that is coming? The fruits of the Spirit characterize it: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
The Kingdom that is coming and that will be the future of this world, made its beach-head into the Kingdom of darkness at the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. There for the first time in human flesh was a person who literally LIVED the fruits of the Spirit without ceasing. Flawlessly. From conception to death and so from death to resurrection! He did it all, for you! And from the resurrection the Kingdom expanded and grew. That growth comes in two ways.
First, it grows by new folks being added to it through the Spirit’s work. They receive the gift of faith, and are baptized and the Church grows. That’s how it has expanded through the whole world and how it continues to expand.
But the second way the Kingdom grows is INSIDE you. For that’s where the battle rages. As long as you live in your fallen flesh, the works of the flesh will continue to try to erupt in your life and disrupt your enjoyment of the Kingdom of God, to destroy the fruits of the Spirit in your life. And in just the same way the Kingdom of God in your life, planted into you at your baptism, engages in an non-stop war against the passions and evil works of your flesh. They are never at peace with each other. The one means the death of the other. To be a Christian is to live in this battle.
Now there are some Lutherans who will tell you that there is no progress in the Christian life, no growth in sanctification. But this is false and it is a lie. Luther in the Large Catechism on Baptism describes the ongoing struggle that Christians engage by the Spirit against the flesh, and he speaks of ever increasing in the fruits of the Spirit and ever diminishing in the works of the flesh. To be sure, it is a battle that proceeds in much weakness and with many setbacks, but it presses on relentlessly to the final victory at the Resurrection. Where this isn’t happening, Luther observes that Baptism isn’t being put to use but resisted.
Yet here is an oft-overlooked truth: this new life of the Spirit isn’t given to you piece-meal. It is given whole. When you were baptized you received the very righteousness of Christ, His flawless obedience to the law, as your very own. It’s the Lord’s gift to you, now given over and over again through repentance and faith. What you grow in is in your living out from that gift more and more, and less and less from the old Kingdom, the Kingdom and works of the flesh.
But this is impossible by your own strength and power. It can only happen by the Holy Spirit. And so the petition: “thy Kingdom come.” That’s your prayer that the Kingdom would increase in this world by gathering others into it, and that’s your prayer that the Kingdom would expand in YOUR life, so that by the gift of the Holy Spirit you believe God’s holy Word and lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity.
That is, when we pray the Second Petition, you ask that by the Spirit’s power your life would become ever more and more filled with the God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. That’s the Kingdom that WILL be the future of this world at the return of Christ. Thy Kingdom come asks for nothing less that that future gift to grow in your life now. May God grant it to us all!
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
LCMS Director of Worship / International Center Chaplain
With thanks and permission from First Things.
President Harrison, the LCMS, and Ecumenical Dialogue » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog
By Matthew Block
This past Saturday, the 2.2 million strong Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod announced the re-election of Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison as President.
President Harrison was first elected in 2010. The same convention which elected him also adopted new policies for the election of the president—namely, that the presidential election would take place in the lead-up to future conventions, rather than at the conventions themselves (which is why we’re talking about this now rather than during the National LCMS Convention July 20-25).
Tim Townsend of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a short article reflecting on President Harrison’s first term, noting some of the positive and negative events that were part of it. In recounting President Harrison’s service so far, Townsend mentions his participation in resisting the Health and Human Services mandate, quoting Harrison’s testimony before congress during which he said he was pleased to “stand with our friends in the Catholic church” as they opposed the excesses of the mandate.
That last topic brings to mind another topic worthy of discussion in considering President Harrison’s first term—namely, the LCMS’ increasingly friendly relations with other church bodies. We’ve seen some of that, of course, in the reaction to the HHS mandate. In addition to testify with other Christians at congress on the matter, President Harrison has been a signatory to a number of letters along with other religious leaders expressing concern about the mandate, most recently a few days ago. It’s led to especially collegial relations with Roman Catholics, with President Harrison writing a letter in June of last year thanking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for their defense of religious freedom. (The growing relationship between confessional Lutherans and Catholics around the world is something I’ve addressed elsewhere on First Things. Up here in Canada, something similar is going on as Lutheran Church–Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently began talks).
But the LCMS’ relationships with other churches have also been growing over the past few years as well. In particular, the LCMS, along with its sister church, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), has developed good relations with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), publishing last year a joint statement rejoicing that they can “jointly affirm core teachings (articles) of the Christian faith shared by our church bodies.” Similarly good relations have been developed with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), with whom the LCMS and LCC are in continuing talks. Representatives of these four church bodies (ACNA, NALC, LCC, and LCMS) recently met together for an ecumenical summit on marriage and sexuality, publishing a joint affirmation on marriage (signed by the heads of all four churches) shortly thereafter.
The LCMS’ growing interchurch relations are not restricted to North America either. While the LCMS has long been part of the International Lutheran Council, the church is more and more developing relationships with biblical Lutherans outside this group. In particular, churches like the 6.1 million member Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), who earlier this year cut off ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Sweden, have begun seeking new relationships with the LCMS and other confessional Lutherans. In March, for example, the EECMY’s General Secretary visited LCMS leaders in St. Louis to “strengthen the relationship” they’ve already been building. And the LCMS held an “International Conference on Confessional Leadership” last year in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 120 Lutheran church leaders from around the world attending.
If the past few years are anything to go by, this growing interest in strong relationships between the LCMS and other confessing Christian churches is likely to continue into President Harrison’s second term. I for one couldn’t be more pleased.