Concerning the Sale of University Lutheran Chapel

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the course of the September meeting of the Council of Presidents, Minnesota North President Don Fondow and I requested of President Lane Seitz a meeting with himself and the Minnesota South District Board of Directors. Of the several concerns raised by the then-impending sale of the University Lutheran Chapel property, President Fondow and I were in agreement that it was unwise to disregard the resolution of the joint pastors’ conference requesting that any decision to sell the property be made at the Minnesota South District Convention. We were seeking to share this and other information directly with the board. President Seitz quickly offered us options for the meeting and was polling his board for an agreeable date. However, President Seitz later informed me that the individual authorized by the Board to sell the property had signed documents to that end at very nearly the same time as President Seitz was working to find an agreeable date for us to meet with the board.

The Life Together which we enjoy is fragile and often fractured. This action makes it even more so. There is no question that the Board had the right to do what it did with the property. Unfortunately, this action is difficult, even impossible to separate from ongoing dissensus in the district about what it means to be Lutheran, very similar to our larger challenges as a Synod. We have a long way to go in this regard. God help us.

I wish to state my hearty thankfulness for ULC. I have met more delightful and engaged Lutherans from this campus ministry around the country than any other. They are occupied in all manner of professions and active in church. We need many more campus ministries just like ULC. The army of clergy and now deaconesses who have come through ULC is astounding.

I would urge that all who are concerned about ULC turn away from judging motives, as difficult as that may be. This action comes as no surprise to anyone close to the situation. It’s time to turn toward ULC’s future, a future I support.

It is also time to have more brotherly conversations around the Word of God and to implore the Lord of the Church to grant greater harmony in what it means to be Lutheran. Together, let us hear and heed the apostolic word: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:9–10).

Pastor Matthew C. Harrison, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

Commentary on the Papal Visit to Germany

Pope Benedictus XVI Visit to The Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt

Pope Benedict XVI paid a visit to Germany from 22 until 25 September 2011. On Friday, 23 September, the Pope spoke with members of the Evangelical Church of Germany at the Augustinerkloster and participated in an ecumenical service of the word. Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Augustinerkloster prompted headlines from newspapers such as the New York Times, “Pope Visits Venerated Lutheran Monastery.” The Augustinerkloster is where Martin Luther was ordained as a priest in 1507. A little more than 500 years later, Pope Benedict XVI visited Martin Luther’s monastery and spoke with representatives from the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD). The EKD is NOT in pulpit and altar fellowship with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. The Missouri Synod’s partner in Germany is the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK). Pope Benedict XVI’s address can be found here. In an effort to provide timely information on ecumenical news, we thought it would be helpful to post on this and provide a commentary on the event from Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt who attended and heard the Pope’s address.

From Berlin Sunday Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt is Presenting in this photo.

Rev. Hans-Jörg Voigt, Bishop of SELK, provided the following commentary on Pope Benedict XVI’s address to EKD leaders. The translation is provided by Rev. Dr. John Stephenson, a professor at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada (a seminary of the Lutheran Church Canada).

Commentary on the papal visit to Germany[1]

Pope Benedict XVI visited Germany from 22 through 25 September 2011. Bishop Hans-Jőrg Voigt of the SELK, who resides in Hanover, took part in the ecumenical service of the Word held in Erfurt with the head of the Roman Catholic Church. Here the Bishop describes the results of the papal visit.

The unity of the Church will come about through delving deeper into the truth of Holy Scripture and not through crafting theological compromises— we “independent” [i.e., confessional] Lutherans can only say Yea and Amen to this notion. For belief founded on clear Scripture will sooner or later convict theological compromise formulas of their inadequacy. Conversely, common confessions forged through prayer and suffering have true staying power.

Immediately after the service I heard someone remark that the Pope had made no mention of Luther in the Augustinian monastery. To which I responded that in this memorable place Benedict XVI had given a clear and straightforward testimony of faith that Luther himself would not find wanting. Later on in the proceedings the Pope did in fact subjoin the requisite “discussion” with Luther.

My “take” on Benedict XVI’s visit to Germany—A highly learned theologian fortified by the intrepid wisdom that comes with age here confronted with the Name of Jesus Christ the devastating phenomenon of how the Church has marginalised herself by giving in time after time to expectations from the most varied (secular) quarters. As he did so, there was no lack of humour, even of a dose of irony at his own expense, nor of a fitting measure of self-criticism, for example, with respect to the sexual abuse problem that has caused so much distress.

EKD Synod President Katrin Göring-Eckardt spoke of walls—of stone and of silence—that have been guarded for too long and that will crumble from inside. If she was targeting the Roman Catholic Church with this remark, then she was making an indirect comparison with the regime of the former German Democratic Republic. Surely Mrs Göring-Eckardt cannot have intended such a thing—that would be a quite improper insinuation!

Of course, I could here go on to list a whole host of open theological questions and zero in on our “No!” to the First Vatican Council’s teaching on the papal office. But to do so would not do justice to what actually happened, which was that for a few days Jesus Christ and the Christian faith were the number one topic in Germany. The members of our Federal Parliament, the Bundestag, were quite right to rise from their seats in a gesture of respect.
† Hans-Jörg Voigt


[1] Along with Pt André Schneider, who serves at Christ Church in Erfurt, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt officially represented our sister Church the SELK at the ecumenical service held in Erfurt’s Augustinian Cloister on Friday 23 September 2011. The secular press gave much publicity to the Pope’s meeting at this historic site with “the German Lutherans,” failing to realise and make clear that the EKD (= “Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany”) is a coalition of three church bodies that enjoy communion with each other, namely, the Reformed, the United, and the Lutherans of the Territorial Churches (Landeskirchen). But even within the VELKD (= United Evangelical Church in Germany), “Lutherans” in our confessional sense of the word are today a rapidly vanishing, marginalised, and harassed minority. The commentary offered here in English translation appeared in the 28 September 2011 issue of the online news service “selk_news”. JRS

Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study by Albert Collver: A Review by Robert Zagore

Pastor Robert Zagore of Trinity Lutheran Church in Traverse City, MI, wrote a book review for Logia on the Witness, Mercy, Life Together Bible Study published by CPH. Logia is a quarterly journal published by The Luther Academy. You can read about Logia here. The review is posted below but can be found at Logia’s Blogia site. A special thanks to both Pastor Zagore and Logia for the book review.

SEP• 22•11

A new Bible study and DVD presentation, Witness, Mercy, Life Together [Witness Mercy Life Together Bible Study by Albert B. Collver, Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2011. 64 pages. $5.99.]

WMLT Bible Study

has been published as a rally-cry-educational-let’s-work-together piece by Dr. Albert Collver and the LCMS President Matthew Harrison. Many pastors who receive it in the mail will have a conditioned response, ‘we’ve seen this before.’ Every publishing house, every administration and (it seems) most pastors seek to build the church into a savvy social organization using marketing surveys, demographic insights and the effective use of technology. Slogans and catch phrases inform believers about the church’s core competencies, strategic goals, and mission. Books and “Bible Studies” show how their’s is really the Lord’s plan updated and informed by the insights of the modern mind. How strange and welcomed therefore is the new Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod theme and emphasis which is built on something altogether different. “Witness, Mercy and Life Together” is the new Synodical emphasis put forward by LCMS President Matthew Harrison and his administrative staff. The emphasis is not a focus-group-tested slogan set forth to move forward with strategic objectives. “Witness,” “Mercy,” and “Life Together” are words the Lord has spoken describing the work of His church. The church is purest and most beautiful when she is defined and described by the Lord. Through His eyes she stands as, “a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). It is indescribably refreshing to the weary to hear those words applied to us. That is the point of the new study by Dr. Albert Collver, to hear what the Lord has said about His church and embrace it as a gift. From the start one can tell this theme and Bible study are much different than the usual “grow more, give more, get more” fare.

The difference becomes obvious in Lesson One, “Witness.” In the church-speak world the word witness has become shorthand for an intentional conversation by which believers help an unbeliever make a decision for Christ and therefore grow the kingdom. “Lesson One” should really be called “Round One” because Collver gently wrestles the word back to its Biblical intent, “The Lord saves souls, but He locates His saving Gospel in the Church, and He uses people within the Church as his instruments to proclaim the Gospel” (p.14). The leader’s guide, the accompanying Steven Starke hymn, and the impressive concordance of Biblical usage thoroughly equip students and leaders to complete the journey which brings the word “witness” back from Law to Gospel.

“Round Two,” builds on this gift and extends it. Throughout history, well-intented but misguided people have declared that pure doctrine and the desire to save the lost are antagonistic goals. Systematicians have sometimes made doctrine devoid of proclamation. Mysticism, pietism, the theological descendants of Dwight Moody decry doctrinal and confessional subscription as anti-missional. The LCMS is certainly no stranger to this battle. Collver however beautifully and convincingly demonstrates that these two stand together in the Lord’s church, “A witness that does not confess what Jesus taught is not a Christian witness. Likewise, a confession that does not witness is not a New Testament confession. . .Telling about Jesus and doctrine go together” (p.18). The leaders’ guide to this section is especially strong. As Collver presents a precisely written and beautiful summary of how true doctrine is manifest in Christ coming to us according to His promise—which is the only hope of the world. With very little modification the leaders’ guide could become a great Christmas sermon.

Lesson three, wrestles the word “mercy” (his translation of the Greek word diakonia) back into it’s Biblical sense, “Being rooted in the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for us on the cross, mercy means feeding the poor, taking care of the sick, and caring for the orphans and widows. Diakonia, then is caring for our neighbor in concrete and effective ways because of what Jesus has done for us” (p.22). Collver does not speak of himself, but his experience as a parish pastor and as an executive in LCMS World Relief and Human Care fills this far-too-brief study with an authenticity and understanding that is known by one who has “done the hard work” (Proverbs 14:23).

Lesson four, “Life Together” leads through a study of the Biblical word koinonia. Once again the word is rescued and revived from its more unworthy uses. In common usage koinonia and its common translation fellowship have lost their Biblical, sacramental foundation and have come to refer to donuts. Collver’s study and leaders’ guide demonstrates with great skill that our fellowship and unity are not founded on liking each other (think of St. Paul and Barnabas), but on a doctrinal and sacramental unity that transcends men, personalities and time. If the LCMS (and any denomination) would escape their bondage to bickering and infighting it will only be as people who have a bond that is deeper than human affronts and leadership cults. “Life Together” rightly teaches Divine fellowship that flows from the Gospel as the hope and substance of churchly interaction. Reconciliation with Christ through His cross enables reconciliation with others. Individual gifts find their fruit and proper use through their incorporation in the Body of Christ.

Lesson five, “Witness, Mercy, Life Together” speaks of the history of conflict in days of the apostles. The obvious conclusion is that the unity of the church has always been under assault from without and from within. The only proper response and the only faithful response of the church is to return to the mission which can be summarized by the Bible’s words witness, mercy and life together. It is indeed commendable that the author would take this approach to a topic so important at this stage of the LCMS’s life. The approach is Biblical, evangelical and draws us to the Gospel and the need for the faithful administration of the Word and Sacraments.

The accompanying DVD shows LCMS President Harrison presenting these same doctrines in a way that is winsome, pastoral, humorous and demonstrates a tremendous grasp of the practical application of Lutheran theology. While the production quality is not wonderful, it is hard to imagine a faithful non-partisan who could fail to be edified and delighted by Harrison’s presentations.

The study is designed to be used in any adult or teen level Bible class and can be used with great profit. Pastors may find that its most enduring value will be as a “new member’s” class or a follow-up to Catechism and confirmation classes. Many congregations offer special classes for those who wish to join by transfer or reaffirmation of faith; it is hard to imagine a better study for such use.

The Bible studies, leaders’ guide and DVD are not fundraising, team building or leadership training devices that use pop psychology and marketing techniques to win hearts. They are Biblical, sacramental, genuine, doctrinally solid, studies on the nature of the Church. It is easily the most useful item to come out of the Synodical Office Building since the sainted A. L. Barry’s What About series; and in many ways, it is more important. One can pray that the Biblical emphases in these studies will come to mark President Harrison’s term of office. If so, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is entering a period of great importance in this dark and fallen world. “The world is longing for what we have,” Harrison cries out in the presentation. If the LCMS and her leaders can maintain a strong Biblical witness, shown forth in mercy and lived out in our life together, she will truly be, “a radiant church.”

Robert Zagore is Senior Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church and School, Traverse City, MI.

Walther Movie

The Walther Movie

Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, (as well as historians from Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne), have been instrumental in the development and production of a new film Walther. The film will be out Fall 2011 and premires on 10 October 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at the Wehrenberg Theater Des Peres 14, located at 1215 Des Peres Rd. in St. Louis, MO. The film will also be shown at the Walther Round Table on 25 October 2011.

The film looks like a great resource for congregations to use in celebration of Walther’s 200th birthday.

Check out the Walther Movie site at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis.

See the flier below:

Walther Grand Premiere Poster