Posts tagged LCMS
On 8 December 2015, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod simultaneously released a report on the informal discussions that have been occurring between the three Synods between 2012-2015. (ELS Release, LCMS Release, and WELS Release same as the document listed above). The LCMS also released a Reporter Story found here. The Report about the Informal Discussions is the most significant update on the relationship between the three Synods since the ELS and WELS suspended fellowship 50 or so years ago. The expenses related to gathering 18 people from three Synods have been largely covered by a donor who is interested in seeing the three Synods discuss their similarities and differences.
The participants of the 2015 informal discussion from ELS, LCMS, WELS
Held at the Mary Wood Retreat Center
First, why are the discussions called “informal” discussions. In the ecumenical world, the use of the term “informal” discussion is used to differentiate them from more formal discussions. For instance, the International Lutheran Council (ILC) is engaged in “informal” discussions with the Roman Catholic Church, whereas the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has been engaged in formal discussions for more than 50 years. In the context of the ILC’s discussions with Rome, it differentiates the discussions from other more long standing discussions. As the discussions progress, they can be “updated” to formal discussions. In the context of the “informal” discussions between the three former members of the Synodical Conference, the term “informal” indicates that the immediate goal was not the re-establishment of altar and pulpit fellowship. Both the ELS and WELS reserve the term “formal” discussion for discussions between them and another church body where it is expected that altar and pulpit fellowship will be established in the near future. Since the three Synods had not had serious discussion in 50 plus years, it was thought that the best way to proceed was on the level of “informal” discussions, almost a “let’s get reacquainted” after 50 years sort of discussion with minimal expectations.
Although most people within the Missouri Synod today recognize that the LCMS is not in fellowship with the ELS and WELS today, many do not realize the causes or reasons for this. The history has largely been forgotten. Sometimes the history is lost in caricatures of what happened. The ending of the Synodical conferences and the ending of fellowship between the three Synods was painful for many of the people involved. Families were divided between membership in the ELS, LCMS, and WELS. (In fact, some of my family is LCMS while others are WELS.)
One of the first caricatures or points of misunderstandings is that the ELS and WELS broke fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The fact is that the ELS and WELS “suspended” fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The ELS did this in 1955, while the WELS did this in 1961. The fact that WELS waited until 1961, caused a division in WELS among those who thought WELS should have suspended fellowship more quickly with the Missouri Synod. In 1960, the Church of the Lutheran Confessions (CLC) formed when it broke away from WELS.
In the WELS 1961 resolution (found here) that “suspended” fellowship with the Missouri Synod, the word “suspend” is defined: “*The word “suspend” as used in the resolution has all the finality of termination during the duration of the suspension, but contains the hope that conditions might some day warrant a reestablishment of fellowship.” “Suspended” is more nuanced than “broke” or “ended” fellowship; it carries the hope of restoration and the end of divisions.
Another “caricature” about the suspension of fellowship was that it was about the “Boy Scouts” and “prayer fellowship.” If you read the WELS 1961 resolution, it does not mention the Boy Scouts or Prayer Fellowship as the cause. (There is no denial that WELS saw participation in the Boy Scouts as symptomatic of other issues within the Missouri Synod.) In light of the recent policy changes within the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), the LCMS also came the to the conclusion that the Missouri Synod and the BSA should not have a formal relationship (see the Reporter announcement).
The issues were much deeper than the Boy Scouts, and involved the Missouri Synod seeking fellowship with the American Lutheran Church (ALC), which in 1988 became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA), and later Missouri’s participation in Lutheran Council in the United States of America (LCUSA), which existed from 1967-1988 and was a cooperative effort of the LCMS, the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church of America, and the Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The Missouri Synod entered fellowship with the American Lutheran Church in 1967, the same year the Missouri Synod officially “dissolved” the Synodical Conference. The Missouri Synod in 1979 entered a state of protest against the American Lutheran Church over the issues of Biblical inerrancy, Women’s ordination, and ecumenical participation and unionism. In 1981, the Missouri Synod broke fellowship with the American Lutheran Church. Yet already, in 1961 when WELS suspended fellowship with the Missouri Synod, the Missouri Synod was talking about entering fellowship with the American Lutheran Church.
The other significant item that led to the ELS and WELS suspending fellowship were the events that led up to Seminex in 1974 at Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis, related to the rejection of biblical inerrancy. In conversations with Missouri Synod professors and students from ELS and WELS who attended Missouri Synod schools, the church officials were aware of aberrations in teaching about the Scripture long before the general membership of the Missouri Synod became aware.
These two underlying facts, the Missouri Synod seeking fellowship with the American Lutheran Church and the events leading up to Seminex, are acknowledged in the Report on the informal discussions. The Report says, “ELS and WELS participants were heartened to hear LCMS leaders acknowledge with sadness that the ELS and WELS were compelled to break fellowship with the LCMS to avoid the tragedy of the doctrinal controversy that befell the LCMS in the 1970s, and that LCMS leaders are continuing to work for faithfulness in Scriptural doctrine and practice in their synod.”
Another significant item mentioned in the Report is The Brief Statement of 1932. The Brief Statement of 1932 is an official doctrinal statement of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Every pastor of the MIssouri Synod reads the Brief Statement at least once in his seminary career, but it is not something that many have reviewed with their congregations, or perhaps read again after seminary. The Brief Statement can be found here (as a PDF here). The Statement on the informal discussions from 2015 list a number doctrines where ELS, LCMS, WELS teach the same. They were The Trinity; The person and work of Christ; Justification by grace through faith; Genesis 1–11 is actual history, for example with a six day creation, Adam and Eve, and the fall; The real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper; Baptism; Law and Gospel; Means of Grace; Eternal Election of Grace; Conversion; Two Kingdoms; End Times; Resurrection of the body; Antichrist; Third use of the law; Rejection of Women’s Ordination; Rejection of Infant Communion; Worship; Need for ecclesiastical visitation and supervision. The Report then mentions how the Brief Statement of 1932 was an area of significant agreement between the Synods.It says, “We also called to mind how all three synods expressed agreement with A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod when it first appeared in the early 1930s. This doctrinal statement still reflects areas of agreement today.”
Considering that these are “informal” discussions more work needs to be done. Areas of doctrine need to be discussed in greater depth including the doctrine of the ministry, the role of women in the church, and prayer fellowship. None of those involved desire to gloss over differences in doctrine or practice that exist, at the same time, the participants wanted to acknowledge where agreement existed.
It is rather significant that the three Synods after more than 50 years of suspended fellowship are informally talking. It also is joyful to be able to discuss the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions with others who hold such similar views to those held by the Missouri Synod.
A future post will talk more about the Synodical Conference.
— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
(Back Row Left to Right): Dr. Joel Lehenbauer (LCMS), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), Rev. Larry Vogel (LCMS)
(Front Row Left to Right): Rev. John Pless (LCMS), Dr. Albert Collver (LCMS), Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC), Rev. Paull Spring (NALC), Rev. David Wendel (NALC)
9 – 10 September 2015, Saint Louis, MO
Representatives of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the North American Lutheran Church met Sept. 9-10 in St. Louis, MO to continue their bi-annual consultations. The series of meetings began December, 2011, at the invitation of President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS as the church bodies seek greater understanding of the other church, ways that there may be cooperation in externals, and be mutually supportive, in spite of differences that exist. Normally, a representative of the Lutheran Church-Canada has participated in the meetings.
This consultation was the second meeting focusing on Holy Scripture. Four questions were presented and discussed: How did the Bible get here? What kind of book is the Bible? Which method is most suitable for interpreting the Bible? What is the proper use of the Bible?
In addition to presentation of Church body reports, other areas of common concern were discussed, including the recent Supreme Court Obergefell decision, the challenge to marriage in North America today, response to the persecution of Christians today.
The representatives will meet again in March 2016.
Representing the LCMS were the Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations-Assistant to the President; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Executive Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; the Rev. John Pless, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne; the Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations.
Representing the NALC were the Rev. John Bradosky, Bishop; the Rev. Paull Spring, Bishop Emeritus; the Rev. Mark Chavez, General Secretary; the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.
David Wendel, firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Vogel, email@example.com
23 August 2015
Several news items from Africa this past week in Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania.
GHANA AND THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH OF GHANA
Last Sunday, 16 August 2015, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana (ELCG) held a conference on same sex marriage and homosexuality in Africa. The conference was broadcast on Ghana Television (GTV). Below is a clip from the conference with an interview with Dr. Paul Kofi Fynn and Dr. Albert B. Collver. (The video can be seen on YouTube at https://youtu.be/UdTJQrEg63I)
NIGERIA and the Lutheran Church of Nigeria
The Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) has a synod theme called, “Christ Lives in Me.” The theme is tripartite: “Christ Lives in Me for Witness”; “Christ Lives in Me for Mercy”; “Christ Lives in Me for Life Together.”
The chorus of the theme song:
Christ Lives in Me
he lives in Me
Christ lives in me
He has given us the grace
He has given us the grace to rule the world
He has given us the grace to overcome the world
He lives in me
Christ lives in me
Christ lives in me for witness
Christ lives in me for works of mercy
Christ lives in me for life together
The song can be listened to at: https://soundcloud.com/collverab3/christ-lives-in-me-lcn
TANZANIA — Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania Elects New Presiding Bishop
This past week (16 August 2015) the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) elected a anew presiding bishop, Frederic Shoo.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) is the second largest Lutheran church in the world with about 6 million members after the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), which has about 8 million members. The Missouri Synod is not in altar and pulpit fellowship with the ELCT, however, the Missouri Synod does have friendly relations with some of the bishops in the ELCT.
Presiding Bishop Frederick Shoo is known as the “tree bishop” due to the large amount of trees he and his North Diocese have planted to help preserve the glaciers on top of Mount Kilimanjaro. PBS did an interview with Bishop Frederick Shoo a few years ago here: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethics/2012/07/13/july-13-2012-kilimanjaro-trees/11790/#
— Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D., Director of Church Relations
Pictured (left to right): Hjalmar Bø, Øyvind Åsland, Albert Collver
On 19 August 2015, Øyvin Åsland, Executive Director of Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM), and Hjalmar Bø, Director NLM International Department, came to Saint Louis to visit with the Missouri Synod and to learn more about the International Lutheran Council (ILC). The Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) was formed in 1891 as Det Norske Lutherske Kinamisjonsforbund (the Norwegian Lutheran Federation for Mission in China). NLM is connected to the revival movements in Norway and adheres to the Holy Scriptures, the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession and the Small and Large Catechisms. NLM’s slogan is “The World for Christ.” The Norwegian Lutheran Mission operates in several of the same countries where the Missouri Synod also operates. For instance, the Norwegian Lutheran Missionaries established Tabor Evangelical College in Ethiopia. Currently, some of the faculty from Tabor Evangelical College are attending doctorate classes at Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis. Missionaries from NLM have frequent contact with Missouri Synod missionaries in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Latin America, and Africa. Although there have been many informal contacts through the years, this is the first time that the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has sought official contacts with the Missouri Synod and with the International Lutheran Council.
Øyvind Åsland and Hjalmar Bø at Concordia Publishing House
Since 1891 (three years before the Missouri Synod engaged in international mission work), the Norwegian Lutheran Mission has been seeking to plant Lutheran churches around the world. NLM always has been a movement within but not under the Church of Norway and has been primarily a lay movement that sought to engage in missions. The Norwegian Lutheran Mission does not support the ordination of women. Most recently, the Norwegian Lutheran Mission voted to “establish religious communities” by a vote of 548 in favor to 121 against.
The vote for the Norwegian Lutheran Mission (NLM) to establish “religious communities” is rather significant as it marks the shift of NLM from being purely a mission agency to also a church. As such NLM has begun to wrestle with the implications of this decision, such as how it will relate to other churches in the world and what sorts of relationships it will seek.
Pictured (left to right): Rev. Paul McCain, Dr. Albert Collver, Jonathan Schulz, Øyvind Åsland and Hjalmar Bø
At Concordia Publishing House, the representatives from the Norwegian Lutheran Mission received an overview of CPH products that might be of interest to the mission field. In the past, NLM has translated a few books from CPH into Norwegian. They also received a tour of the facilities.
After visiting Concordia Publishing House, the NLM representatives had the opportunity to visit Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. Once again, the Norwegian Lutheran Mission is familiar with Concordia Seminary as some of their missionaries and leaders have studied there in the past.
Dr. Jeff Kloha Provides An Overview of the Campus
At Concordia Seminary, the representatives from NLM saw highlights of the campus including the rare book room, where they saw the Bach Bible and Codex Vaticanus. The representatives from NLM noted how it is amazing that an institution remained faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions for 175 years, which only happens by the grace of God.
The first formal visit with the Norwegian Lutheran Mission went well and we are looking forward to more visits in the future.
— Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D., Director of Church Relations
The Lutheran Church of Nigeria held a deaconess conference with the LCMS on the theme, “Deaconesses in Mission.” Approximately 200 women attended.
The women were very eager to join the conference.
Deaconess Grace Rao spoke about the role of women in the church.
Dr. Collver reflected on the Lutheran Church of Nigeria’s Theme, “Christ Lives in Me,” and used the Gospel of Mark to describe the Christ that lives in you, while tying it to mercy works.
Dr. David Erber assisted with the conference.
Nigeria in the rainy season.