Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 15, Number 2
In this Issue:
Announcing the 2008 LMS Conference/Convention
The Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA will meet for the 2008 Annual Conference and Convention on Saturday and Sunday, June 21 and 22 in Indianapolis IN.
The Conference and Convention are OPEN to all interested pastors and laypersons. As in past years, there is no registration fee (only the meals and housing will be at the expense of the participants).
Pastors are reminded that the Ministerium will also meet on Friday, June 20 to elect officers and make appropriate recommendations to the Convention. Interviews will be scheduled for Friday afternoon, June 20 upon request by pastors desiring to apply for membership or to change their membership standing with the LMS-USA. It is assumed that all pastors of the LMS-USA will eventually subscribe to the principles of the LMS-USA in a reasonable time period.
Arrangements have been made for a meeting room at the Best Western Crossroads hotel for the Saturday Conference meetings. Those meetings will begin at 9:00 a.m. and continue throughout the day. There are eating places convenient to the hotel for your noon meal.
The Best Western Crossroads hotel is located at 7610 Old Trails Road, near Exit 46 on Interstate 465 at US Route 40. Cost per room (king bed or two double beds) is only $50 plus tax per night including breakfast. Reservations should be made by May 20 to guarantee this rate by calling the hotel at 317-353-6966; mention "LMS" or "Lutheran Pastors."
It would be helpful if those planning to attend would contact the Secretary of the Mnisterium, Rev. Richard Horn or LMS President Rev. Ralph Spears. Pastors are reminded that attendance is expected of all LMS-USA pastors. Excused absences can be requested if necessary by contacting Rev. Horn.
The Conference this year will be dealing with how we do authentic Lutheran ministry in the midst of the religious pluralism of today. Presentations will be made but there will also be ample time for discussion.
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Full Altar and Pulpit Fellowship Between The (LCMS) Lutheran Church Missouri Synod And (TAALC) The American Association of Lutheran Churches
A Response by President Rev. Ralph Spears
|Among the many "whereases" that accompany formal ecclesiastical pronouncements, full pulpit and altar fellowship was recently declared between the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and The American Association of Lutheran Churches. Therfore many questions have come to us in the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA since we had withdrawn from the later and had looked to the former as an orthodox confessional Lutheran body. For the LMS, our course and outlook; nothing has changed! It is not that we "don't get it" - it is that we do! This provokes neither a call to retreat to a stance of proper dogmatism nor a reaction of outraged fundamental elitism. It is a time to trim the sails, maintain the course we have set with patient conviction and to see what indeed might come of this!|
This all reminds me of two Collects; “Among the manifold changes of this world, may our hearts be there fixed where true joys are found!” Change is inevitable, presidential candidates invoke it in one form or another – and the masses clamor for it. This lovely Collect from the Season of Pentecost gently inveighs on the faithful to remain – faithful by ‘loving the Commands of God and desiring the promises!’
A second such prayer of the Church counsels that “we .. so pass through things temporal (temporary due to change) that we lose not sight of things eternal!” Again an anchor is provided for the Ship of the Church.
But the shifting waves of the temporal often bring surprises, sometimes the very things that we would not expect. So even the Church produces strange bunkmates!
Who would have thought that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod would have rather quickly ratified fellowship of pulpit and altar with the American Association of Lutheran Churches, the AALC? Many within both of these bodies are among those most surprised by it. A few short years ago this would have been impossible if not unthinkable.
We in the LMS have as it were, a ring side seat to the whole drama, leaving the AALC on fairly good terms because of the decision theology and the rampant charismatic expression that abounded fifteen or more years ago within the AALC which accompanied that uneasy feeling that what they perceived to be ‘rock’ was actually ‘sand’. There were those who agreed with us within the AALC but did not want to leave – at least then. By and large, we remained friends with many of the officers, pastors and congregations. But as nearly as we can tell, very little has changed with the AALC - statements to some of us by some former leaders, notwithstanding. The same shaky foundations are in place within them as the day that we respectfully disagreed and went our own way.
Quite honestly we had not envisioned yet another Church body or as one pastor stated it – one more alphabet soup Lutheran group of which there were several, let alone organizing such a critter albeit founded on the most acceptable Christian teaching and practice of the Lutheran Confessional tradition.
Yet it has been a most interesting decade and a half. We have been contacted by many who were ‘run over’ by various other alphabet Lutheran groups – rightly or wrongly. Aided by the internet and word of mouth, we have met pastors and congregations who had gone through the rigors of change and even trial by fire. We have been able to provide encouragement to many and a few joined us to share their strengths with our growing body.
Actually the Christian Church historically, has proven to be quite adaptable over the centuries and therefore surprisingly good at change. From beleaguered Saints to small but spreading groups, the Church emerged from underground to make Creeds surer and spread to the masses while holding to convictions that split The Body of Christ – East and West! In just the history of the Lutheran Church in America, there have been many and varied changes, adaptations and expressions. The question ever, has been what manner the change and for what purpose the change in the Church of Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Our Brother Paul, as Peter referred to him, not only had some ‘hard’ sayings but some sayings that still seem – somewhat over the top. One particularly comes to mind; that “even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a Gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8)
O.K. Paul, we get the point. Perhaps it is more the gentle holding of the faith delivered to the saints and to us, and our responsibility in teaching and transmitting that Faith faithfully. Peter warned also in this passage (11 Pet. 3:16) that people would take these sayings, “the ignorant and unstable” and would “twist (them to) their own destruction as they do other Scriptures”
Nothing new here! What is novel is the amount of shifting about just within the Lutheran Church of North America. Basic and centuries old doctrine in the good and necessary sense of the term, have been severely compromised for a fractious and uneasy unity, certainly not what Our Lord meant in His prayer of John 17, “That all may be one!” Much good advice, even warning from Apostles such as Peter, Paul and John in Holy Writ have been compromised or ignored. What is the point?
They have written to us with such conviction like Paul’s statement above, and insight such as John in his First Epistle speaking of the binding power of love, and Peter by recounting his witness of the significance of the Transfiguration – for us and our Faith; as though they foreknew that these ‘times’ would come upon Christ’s beloved body – so that at least a few ‘watchmen’ in every age might see and respond in Faith. The complex elements or pieces that comprise Faith just like any other construct, such as say - a ship, are inter dependent and essential for staying on course and finally for staying afloat!
So then what might we conclude from all of this? What indeed, is the point?
Well after all, it is only a fellowship agreement between The LCMS and The AALC, which allows the sharing of pulpit and altar, the proper proclaiming of the Word and the proper administering of the Sacraments, in a sense a rope bridge between the two ‘vessels’. Perhaps it will be a very little used connection no matter how many “whereas’” attempt to bind them together and the two will continue to drift in their own present currents.
Still Our Lord prays for us as He did on the night of His Passion. It is His work alone that binds us together and the action of the Holy Spirit. And it is only asked of us that we be found faithful, a lifetime commitment and a daily task.
“Watchman – what of the night?” ?
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Should the ELCA drop the "L"?
by Rev. John Erickson
Not so few persons have questioned whether the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is any longer a Lutheran Church. If in fact they are no longer Lutheran, ought they not drop the "L" from their name?
The recent first draft of the ELCA social statement on sexuality is further evidence that the ELCA is not Lutheran and should no longer include “Lutheran” in its name.
The Formula of Agreement between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ was adopted by the ELCA in their Churchwide Assembly in August of 1997. At the time that agreement was being considered, a group of ELCA pastors (a couple of Bishops were also in attendance) met in Duluth, MN with Professor Gerhard Forde of Luther Seminary, to discuss the issues at hand. In that meeting one of the pastors asked Professor Forde, “If the Formula of Agreement is adopted by the ELCA, can the ELCA continue to be considered a Lutheran Church?” Things were quiet for a time and then Professor Forde responded to the effect, “No, it really can not.”
Any person growing up Lutheran and having taken Confirmation instruction using Luther’s Small Catechism, along with one of the various explanations of the catechism, knows that there is no way that the Lutheran understanding of the Sacraments, of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and the Reformed understanding of these Sacraments, are in any way compatible. And, there are many other differences between Lutheran and Reformed theology which need not be enumerated here.
The Text of the Formula of Agreement can be found at: http://archive.elca.org/ecumenical/fullcommunion/formula/index.html
In addition to the Formula of Agreement, the ELCA also, in 1997, formally accepted the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The purpose of this statement is "to show that on the basis of their dialogue the subscribing Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Christ." What is interesting is how the framers of this agreement recognized that this common understanding "does not cover all that either church teaches about justification." Amazingly, these men and women did not see this as a problem, even though the statement itself mentions some rather significant areas where there is lack of agreement. For example:
Text of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification can be found at: http://archive.elca.org/ecumenical/ecumenicaldialogue/romancatholic/jddj/index.html
One really has to wonder what a church actually professes as its faith when it can claim agreement in areas where there is still so much disagreement. And now, the ELCA is in talks with the United Methodist Church.
If some kind of agreement comes out of these talks, or if altar and pulpit fellowship between these church bodies is declared, what will that suggest as to what it means to be “Lutheran”?
Actually it all comes down to the Word of God... to Scripture... to the Bible. Back in 1984 a Lutheran layman, Dr. Robert T. Jensen, had some correspondence with Bishop Chilstrom who was at that time bishop of the Minnesota Synod of the LCA. Included in one of the letters to Bishop Chilstrom was mention of a minority report filed with the LCA by a retired LCA seminary professor and former missionary, Dr. H. Daniel Friberg. Friberg had objected to some of a LCA committee’s conclusions with regard to the authority of the Word. In reference to this, Jensen asked Chilstrom if he would advocate employment of at least a minority of Lutheran theologians who concur with the more conservative view of Scripture [i.e., the inerrancy of Scripture in its original autographs] on the faculty of our Lutheran seminaries and colleges so that these alternative views may be presented to the students.
To this Chilstrom [later elected as the first Bishop of the ELCA] responded, “In my opinion, people who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture should be welcome to remain within the new Lutheran church. Dan Friberg is a case in point. He has a right to his opinions regarding the inerrancy of Scripture. ... I do not argue with those who say that they hold that as an opinion, so long as they do not make their opinion a standard for the new church. It is for this reason that I would not support the employment of Lutheran theologians who hold to a view similar to that of Friberg. It is well and good for our seminary students to be exposed to the fact that there are some who hold this opinion. But it is quite another thing to advocate this view in our seminaries. It would be out of character with any of the churches which are identifying with the new Lutheran church.”
What is so interesting is that if you would go back a generation or two, in most, if not in all the predecessor bodies of these “churches” to which Chilstrom refers, you will find very clearly worded statements - whether or not they use the exact words such as inerrancy and infallibility - they nevertheless are clear statements as to the Divine inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of Sacred Scripture.
But notice now how far the ELCA has come from the position of her predecessor bodies. In the recent press release in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel of the first draft of the recent statement on sexuality, Bishop Paul Stumme-Diers of the Greater Milwaukee Synod says, “I’m grateful that it’s solidly rooted in Scripture and speaks to the whole of human sexuality.” Another pastor, Rev. Paul Mittermaier is quoted, “From what I can tell, the document is very biblical...” These quotes are most interesting in light of what else the task force had to say. In an article by Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune, we are told by the framers of this document that Scripture should be interpreted in light of scientific knowledge and human experience. “Human knowledge about sexuality, such as that found in medicine and the social and physical sciences, can teach us about healthy practice and provide new insights.”
Back in 1997 a conference was held in Ann Arbor, MI dealing with the church and sexuality. On that occasion Rev. Mark Alan Powell, associate professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, OH stated, “The church has the authority and duty to determine how closely or loosely the laws of the Bible apply today to Christians. . . . The Bible condemns same-sex sexual relations, Powell said, "but the church has the authority to define acceptable homosexual behavior and decide whether or not to bless same-sex unions. . . . It is also the duty of the church members to live according to the decisions of the church."
A battle cry of the Reformation at the time of Luther was “Sola Scriptura” i.e., “Scripture alone.” The statement from the United Lutheran Church of some years ago was not unique to that church body... it stated what was central to being Lutheran. “Because the Bible is the inspired Word of God, it is the only rule of Christian doctrine and life, and completely authoritative in all matters of faith and morals. The church grounds all its teaching in this book, and rejects all doctrines which conflict with its principles. . . . All undertakings of the church of an educational, charitable, or social nature must be based upon its truth.” (emphasis mine).
There could be any number of arguments made as to why the ELCA should no longer promote itself as being Lutheran, but this one thing should be reason enough... its position on Holy Scripture. The ramifications of this view are sobering. We see it in the most recent social statement's first draft, i.e., that which the Bible clearly calls sin is no longer considered sin. And if there is no sin, then there is no need for repentance. And if there is no repentance, there can be no salvation (Luke 13:3).
In the same way that Ezekiel was called to be a watchman in his day, so the church and its pastors and teachers are called to be the watchmen in our day. It is well to consider what we find in Ezekiel 3:17 and following in this regard. If the church is not faithful in giving warning to sinners of their evil ways... they will die for their sin... but the church and its pastors and teachers will be held accountable for their blood. If, on the other hand the wicked are warned but they do not take heed, they will still die in their sin, but the church and its pastors and teachers will not be held accountable. But how blessed it will be for all, if when the warning is sounded, the sinner turns from their sin to the Savior who stands with arms open and ready to forgive.
The Lord of the Church said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” We must hold to the Word. We must not add to it or take anything away from it (Rev. 22:18-19). We are not free to twist the meaning, or give new meanings to the clear teachings of Scripture. We are to align our own thinking, and consider all scientific, historic, behavioral and whatever studies, in light of Holy Scripture... and not the other way around. Sola Scriptura! This is at the very core of what it means to be Lutheran... that we believe in salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, as revealed to us in the pages of Scripture alone!
“Lord keep us steadfast in Thy Word!”
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The LMS-USA is a Biblical, Confessional, Evangelical, Liturgical, Congregational
expression of the universal (catholic) orthodox Church on earth. It is a
'Forum by Subscription.' As a 'Forum' the intent is that there will be an
ongoing discussion of theological issues and concerns among clergy and lay
alike. The LMS-USA meets annually for a Theological Conference and this
publication, besides carrying news of the Ministerium and Synod, functions
also as a vehicle for this continuing dialogue.
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