Official Publication of the LMS-USA
Volume 2, Number 3
CHANGES - CHANGES
This newsletter comes to you with a new name. As we have evolved, so
has the name of this newsletter, from The AALC Forum News, to the
Indianapolis Conference News, to what we now hope will be our permanent name,
Lutheran Table Talk.
You also note a slight change in our name. Our last newsletter informed
you that we were the Lutheran Synod and Ministerium - USA (LSM-USA). Now you
will notice our name is the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - USA (LMS-USA).
The change came about when the Lutheran Student Movement - USA informed us
that they also use the LSM-USA letters. They incorporated under this name 25
years ago. Interestingly, they did not incorporate the LSM-USA letters so
our legal advisor informed us we could go ahead with the name we selected.
However, rather than making an issue of this matter, we felt it would be far
better, in a spirit of good will, for us to make the change.
PASTORS AND CONGREGATIONS MAKE SUBSCRIPTION
Pentecost Sunday is always a special Sunday in the life of the church,
but this year it was especially significant for the founding pastors and
congregations of the LMS-USA.
In their respective morning worship services, Pastors Roy Steward, Ralph
Spears and John Erickson made subscription to the LMS-USA initial
subscription documents (i.e. The Anotated Indianapolis Statement on
Scripture, The Unaltered Augsburg Confession, Luther's Small Catechism, and
the LSM-USA Constitution).
The congregations of Faith Evangelical Lutheran and Barley Evangelical
Lutheran (Altoona, PA) and St. Matthew Lutheran (Indianapolis) also made
subscription. Christ Lutheran of Chetek, WI has set a congretational meeting
for July 16 to deal with the affiliation question and likely take a first
Two recurring Questions have been asked of us by several different
persons: 1) Why is LMS-USA Subscription only to the "Unaltered Augsburg
Confession" (UAC) and The Small Catechism of Luther instead of to the entire
Book of Concord? and 2) Is Subscription (Signing under) in the sense of
"Quia" (Because they are correct expositions of the doctrine of the
Scripture) or Quatenus (Only in so far as they agree with what is taught,
i.e. The Gospel)?
Yes the LMS-USA foundational documents which are the current
subscriptional documents emphasize only the "Unaltered Augsburg Confession"
and the "Small Catechism" of Luther from the Book of Concord. This might be
termed the "minimalist" subscriptional position. These two works from the
Book of Concord are understood by LMS-USA in the Quia sense and not in the
Quatenus sense. This means that we of LMS-USA subscribe to the Augsburg
Confession and the Small Catechism as being correct expositions of the
doctrine of the Scripture. They are the foundational Confessional beginning!
In emphasizing this "Quia" understanding of these particular Confessional
writings the LMS-USA begins at a much more conservative point than ELCA
Lutherans who affirm the Augsburg Confession and the Small Catechism from the
Quatenus position. Likewise the LMS-USA Confessional Beginning Subscription
begins at a much more conservative point than that held by most of the ELCA
predecessor bodies. By beginning with only the Unaltered Augsburg Confession
and the Small Catechism as the basic Lutheran Confessional documents viewed
with the Quia understanding the LMS-USA nonetheless resists moving to the far
right wing Lutheran orientation. Thus the "Conservative Middle" or "Moderate
Conservative" stance is emphasized at one and the same time in this
LMS-USA will intentionally proceed to study and reflect upon the other
Symbolical Writings of the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of
Concord. Should these writings achieve a Consensus of support from LMS
pastors and congregations (in the "Quia" sense) in light of Holy Scripture
and in light of the UAC/ Small Catechism then addi-tional writings of the
Book of Concord will be added as consensus is achieved to the "Subscriptional
Documents" of the LMS-USA. As a new statement or document is added to this
basic corpus of writings all LMS-USA Pastors will be expected to subscribe to
any such additions.
In earlier discussion leading to the formation of LMS-USA, some desired
that LMS-USA not be organized until all Theological issues and doctrinal
matters would first achieve Consensus. This methodology of course would run
counter to that of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. We agreed on the
basics and have committed LMS-USA to be a Forum for ongoing theological study
and reflection by its pastors and laity alike. The founders of LMS-USA chose
to begin with a Foundational Consensus upon the basics of "Holy Scripture",
"The Unaltered Augsburg Confession" (UAC); "The Small Catechism" of Luther;
"The Ecumenical Creeds" (Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian), as well as "The
LMS-USA Constitution". LMS-USA will in accord with its constitution proceed
to be a Synod and Ministerium engaged in ongoing study and reflection upon
all other doctrinal matters and Biblical/ Theological issues. Any future
additions to the Subscriptional Corpus of Doctrine for LMS-USA will be
understood in the Quia sense.
[Rev. Roy A. Steward]
LMS-USA CONGREGATIONS GIVE MISSION SUPPORT
After seven (7) months of life the new congregation in Littlestown, PA is
proving to be an exciting ministry. The new congregation rents the local
YMCA building. The Congregation's make up is very youthful. A Youth
retreat resulted in over 40 young people in attendance and a VBS program just
concluded with over 120 children in attendance.
Living Faith Ev. Free Lutheran Con-gregation is receiving Mission
sup-port from 3 of our LMS-USA congregations (Christ Lutheran, Chetek WI;
Barley Ev. Lutheran, Baker's Summit PA.; and Faith Ev. Lutheran, Altoona PA.)
SPREAD THE WORD
People are inter-ested in the new opportunity for fellowship and mission in
the 'moderate' or 'middle' conservative Lutheran position.
You can help to spread the word. If you know of interested persons, share
(copy) this material with (for) them.
A RENEWED CALLING
Our Lord, Jesus Christ, has fulfilled all that had been revealed
before His time !! As the WORD made flesh: He fulfills the covenant of
promises and the Law with the Good News, the Gospel - Faith Alone; He
justifies mankind with the Father, the Creator of all through humble
communion with Him - Grace Alone; and thereby leaves living witness of
Salvation's history 'since the foundation of the world' - Scripture Alone !
For this reason we know The Word to be totally reliable and true as
Jesus had promised to His Apostles in the latter chapters of John's Gospel by
the Holy Spirit, the revealed Word and the writ-ten Word having become ONE.
We do not take belief in the inerrancy of this Word lightly, or hold to it
because any outside authority says that we must . Rath-er by the gift of
faith, we JOYFULLY submit to its lifegiving authority and say with Luther,
"This is most certainly true!" - and not by our merit.
By prayer, study, reflection and CONSENSUS, we ask Him through the Holy
Spirit, to lead us into "all Truth" as a "faithful embodiment of the church
of Jesus Christ on earth" by Word and Sacrament! There is nothing further
Martin Luther did not seek to do anything of himself or to create a new
movement. Rather, he accepted the Call to center the Church again in Faith
in Christ Alone, by Grace Alone through the Scripture Alone.
So the Lutheran Ministerium and Synod - U.S.A. in like man-ner is doing
nothing of itself, nor is it seeking to begin a new movement. Rather, we
feel called humbly to center the Church once again in Christ with these age
old foundations of faith made new.
If we are to be called 'conservative middle' or 'moderate middle' for
our stance, so be it. Here We Stand, neither moving to left - where
anything goes; nor to the right - where the understandable desire for a
'righteous' church causes some to be defined OUT of the reach of grace.
Age old liturgies and forms have grown up with the Word which they have
come into being, to embody. Therefore they deserve our respect as a shape of
reverence which time has mold-ed. Yet we would not be unwilling to "Sing a
new song" in the worship of Our Lord who "makes all things New" in forms
appropriate to those given to our church !
And so by faith, prayer, study and consensus we humbly set the course of
the church firmly in Christ in these 'most interesting' times !! " Even so,
come Lord Jesus !"
TABLE TALK - Mailing List
This particular issue of Table Talk is being sent to a number of persons
not on our permanent mailing list. We want to give you an idea as to who we
At this time we plan to publish Table Talk quarterly. If, in a few
months, you find you are not receiving this newsletter, and you would like to
receive it - let us know!
(See address on back page)
LMS-USA CONSTITUTION HAS UNIQUE FEATURES
Many church bodies have run into difficulties because their
constitutions allow for determined minorities to infiltrate and impose a
particular agenda or to force a compromise by the majority of the Church
Body. Majority rule is mainly a formula for political compromise. How can a
majority be put together in order to carry the votes? Often times coalitions
of minority views end up putting together a majority. While this may be a
good approach in the realm of secular politics it is a formula for disaster
when applied to the Word of God and the Christian Gospel. Secular politics
almost always seeks the least common denominator.
Thus when the secular political process has been brought into the
Christian Churches it has resulted in majorities voting what they think the
Word of God should say. Thus we have seen strong Bible and Confessionally
sound churches abandon the Scripture as well as the Confessions. The truth
of God's Word in fact is often not the winner of majority votes. A better
way of organization we believe is the way of seeking unanimity or consensus
by all the pastors and all congregations of a church body in light of Holy
Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions. Human consensus could
become simply human com-promise that everyone agrees to, but when we add "in
light of Holy Scripture and in light of the Lutheran Confessions," this makes
it a very different matter. What does Scripture say on the matter? What do
the Lutheran Confessions state on the matter in witness to Scripture? The
achieving of consensus along these lines involves study and reflection upon
God's Word and the Confessions.
Our LMS-USA Constitution emphasizes "Consensus in Light of Scripture and
in Light of the Luther-an Confessions." This is a fairly unique church
constitutional provision which we believe to be soundly Biblical. "Have this
mind among yourselves."
In our constitution we also have worked to keep a balance between clergy
and congregations (laity). Our body is to be a balance between the "
Ministerium " (an old Colonial Lutheran word referring to the gathering of
pastors) and the "Synod" (the traditional Lutheran word referring to a
gathering of congregations). This type of balance is not much seen in our
day. The tendency has been to either emphasize "hierarchicalism" and the
wider church as owning the congregations as well as their property with the
pastors seen as "hirelings." or to see the local congregation as the sole
entity of the church with the pastors again seen as "hirelings". In these
two current and common models the pastors are subtly encouraged to please
either the congregation or the hierarchy rather than to preach the Word of
God in its full truth.
Our LMS - emphasizes the autonomy of the local congregation (all
congregations have sole title and authority over their property) but at the
same time we acknowledge that we need others in order to struggle to be
faithful to our Lord's Mission and also that we ourselves may be challenged
to stay focused upon God's Word alone and also upon our Lu-theran
Our LMS-USA pastors are not seen as hierlings of a congregation or as
servants of a hierarchy. They are seen as those who have been called to
preach and teach the Word of God. They are undershepherds to Christ. The
ministerium serves an important function because pastors need the fellowship
of other pastors for all of the same reasons just cited for congregations.
Congregations likewise need a roster of clergy from which to call future
pastors and they need to know that the clergy of the church body are united
in basic doctrine, Biblical and Confessional understanding, as well as in
basic ministerial practice. Again, the Ministerium serves an important
function. Congregations also need the encouragement that comes from knowing
that they have fellowship with other congregations of like minded
Our LMS-USA constitution guards against two dangers. In majority/minority
vote situations - persons (pastors and laypersons) with very different
notions from the founding purposes of a church body can take over and
completely change the direction of the church body simply because majority
rules - or because persuasive and dynamic leaders triumphed over genuine
concern, and the majority went along unsuspectingly. In our Constitution,
the " Consensus in light of Scripture and the Confessions mechanism" guards
against this very thing. We have put it in place intentionally for this very
purpose. New ideas or new introductions must gain consensus approval in
light of Scripture and the Confessions before becoming the doctrine and/or
practice of our Church body. This will be a very big help in guarding
against the danger of "reducing Holy Scripture" to what is popular at the
The other danger that is guarded against is the danger of legalism.
Very often conservative church bodies have tried to insure that all members
in the church (congregation or church body will be "true believers"). Thus
they have enacted rules, principals, and methods of examination that go
beyond the Scripture. Our LMS-USA Constitution begins with what is
essential and basic. It can be called "bare essential" or "basic minimum
Doctrine". We thus emphasize our Statement on Holy Scripture, The Three
Ecumenical Creeds, The Unaltered Augsburg Confession, and The Small Catechism
of Dr. Martin Luther. In doing this we are following the clear intent of the
Augsburg Confession which set forth the basic minimum essentials that could
not be compromised. Now our "Consensus in Light of Scripture and the
Lutheran Confessions" comes into action precisely by emphasizing that no new
items can be added to our basic subscriptional statements unless consensus in
light of Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions has been achieved. Thus
our LMS-USA Constitution we believe is a unique guard against these two
deadly dangers: Legalism on the one hand and the "watering down of Scripture
and the Lutheran Confessions" on the other.
Unique for this present day and age is our emphasis upon
"subscription to" or the "signing under" the basic beginning documents and
Constitution of the LMS-USA by all Pastors and Congregations wishing to be
voting members of the LMS-USA. This simply means we put our names on the
line that we truly agree to the basic doctrinal and organizational positions
of the LMS-USA. We want no masquerading or make believe in this vital area.
Those not ready to fully accept all that has been heretofore approved may
become associate (non-voting) members of LMS-USA. Our stress is that
congregations take this matter as seriously as pastors. Congregations where
the lay people understand and agree to the basic teachings of our church body
are very important in maintaining our Con-fessional stance.
A further unique result of our emphasis upon "Consensus in light of Holy
Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions" is the fact that we do not need
elaborate representational schemes for Synod or Ministerium meetings and
voting gatherings. Each subscribing congregation gets one vote and each
subscribing pastor is entitled to one vote. Actions are not adopted unless
there has been consensus. Thus our decisions are intended to be inclusive of
all members of the the church body. Oligarchy - or dominance by one or two
strong personalities - is thus guarded against in our constitution. The head
of our church body is to be Jesus our Savior and none other. It is the Word
of God that is to lead, guide, and direct us. The Lutheran Confessions are,
we believe, the correct exposition of that Word.
A final unique feature of our LMS-USA Constitution for mention here, is
the focus upon study. We intentionally understand our gatherings for both
the Ministerium and the Synod to be a "Forum for Study" of God's Word and the
Lutheran Confessions for both Laity and Clergy. We thus refer to ourselves
as a "Synodical and Ministerial Forum" (Forum meaning a place for dialogue
and discussion). As we study and reflect on important issues down through
the years we are also committed to sharing the results of our deliberations
with all other Lutheran Church bodies asking for official comment and
response from them to help us in our ongoing reflection and study. Rev.
[Rev. Roy Steward]
INDIANAPOLIS CONFERENCE PRESENTATION BOOKS AVAILABLE
For those interested, the presentations given at the First Indianapolis
Conference on Biblical Inerrancy, and the Second Indianapolis Conference on
the Holy Spirit and His Gifts are available in booklet form.
Inerrancy Booklet Contents:
* Conservative Elements Holding to the Biblical Inerrant, Infallibility and
Confessional Positions within Eastern Lutheranism
* Principles of Biblical Interpretation
*Two kinds of Authority, One Abiding Purpose
*The Divinely Inspired, Inerrant and Infallible Original Autographs - But Can
We Say More?
* The Minneapolis Thesis? A Question of Spiritual Adequacy
Holy Spirit Booklet Contents:
* A Biblical Basis
* Apostolic Uniqueness
* The Holy Spirit in the Means of Grace
* The Orthodox Lutherans
Indianapolis Conference Presentations Cost is $5.00 per booklet (includes
postage) - write or call: Rev. John Erickson, P. O. Box 31, Chetek, WI
54728; Phone/Fax 715-924-2552
"MODERATE CONSERVATIVE" / "CONSERVATIVE MIDDLE" WHAT DO WE MEAN?
In the first place it refers to our understanding of Holy Scripture, that
upon which we, as a church body, seek to base all our teachings and
practices. Our view of Scripture can be found in both our brief statements
and in our more detailed, Indianapolis Annotated Statement on Scripture. Put
simply, we accept the Word of God, the Bible, as being divinely inspired,
inerrant, and infallible. Holy Scripture is not something we are free to
interpret as we please, or apply as we please, depending on our circumstances
or the time in which we live. Neither are we free to decide what portions of
Scripture we must hold to as true and nonnegotiable versus other portions on
which we can negotiate and label as 'folklore' or 'fable.' For us, all of
scripture is true and trustworthy even when it has to do with matters of
history and science.
On the other hand, we do not want to find ourselves in the
'fundamentalist' camp. We do not believe it is possible to understand all we
find in Holy Scripture. There may even be things we have a problem accepting
as being possible or reasonable (thinking in areas of history and science for
example) but for us, that is okay. We don't have to be able to figure
everything out. We don't need to have an answer for every question that
comes up. It's okay to have some unanswered questions. We believe what the
Word says, and we accept it as true and reliable because God never lies; his
Word is truth!
In the second place, it has to do with our practice of the faith. We
hold to the three great Reformation tenets, Scripture Alone, Grace Alone,
Faith Alone. We are in the middle because we don't want to add anything to
what God's Word plainly says concerning God's relationship to us and our
relationship with him. On the other hand, we don't want to take anything
away either. It is not the gospel plus some church imposed restrictions,
duties, or whatever. Nor is it overlooking the fact that obedience to Christ
is costly, i.e., "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his cross daily and follow me." There is no room in our
middle/moderate position for 'cheap grace.'
Our middle or moderate position also speaks to our worship practice.
God and his Word is to be central to our corporate worship experience.
Anything that would take away, cheapen, or distract from God and his Word is
to be avoided at all cost. We believe that an order and practice of worship
such as that found in the Common Service provides an appropriate and
meaningful worship experience. We are not 'locked' into every detail of this
service order. There may well be additions or deletions to this service
which may be appropriate. But such a service serves a solid 'backbone' which
one may carefully 'flesh out' to meet particular needs and tastes. Our point
is this - when one visits one of our congregations, they should have a good
idea of what to expect by way of worship style and practice. And, there
should be the sense of a tie to Lutheran tradition, not for tradition's sake,
but because the 'traditional' has proven to be a powerful vehicle for
centuries of Christian worship. [Rev. John Erickson]
AROUND THE LMS-USA
Indianapolis, IN - The LMS-USA National Office has received the first
application for membership on the clergy roster. It is exciting to note
indication of two more pastors and one additional congregation ex-pressing a
desire for application and a third pastor and congregation making serious
Enquiries have been received concerning the possibility of Associate
Membership. Yes we have provided for such a status of membership for both
Pastors and Congregations.
Application forms for pastors and congregations can be obtained by writing:
LMS-USA President/Pastor (See address below)
Officers of the LMS-USA are : President/Pastor - The Rev. Ralph Spears; Vice
President/ Pastor - The Rev. Roy A. Steward; Ministerium Secretary - The Rev.
John S. Erickson; Steering Committee Secretary - Mrs. Joane Messerschmidt.
Altoona PA - Faith Lutheran is looking to voting on acquiring a church
building and property. The congregation, organized in November of 1991 and
Incorporated on Dec. 23, 1991 has been renting space for Worship since its
inaugural worship service of January 5, 1992. The Board of Deacons and
Elders has recommended the purchase of 2 acres of property and a building to
be remodeled for church use. Faith Congregation hopes to be in the new
Church home by mid autumn at the earliest and by Christmas Eve at the latest.
Bakers Summit, PA - Barley Ev. Lutheran Church officially closed the charter
membership period of the congregation after a one year period on June 10,
1995. Barley congregation was begun as mission effort of Faith Evangelical
Lutheran Church, Altoona PA with a core of 7 persons. The congregation as of
the Charter Closing had surpassed 125 membership.
Chetek, WI - Christ Lutheran Church took their first vote at their
congregational meeting on Sunday, July 16, to subscribe to, and affiliate
with, the LMS-USA. Their second vote is set for August 20th.
The LMS-USA is a 'Forum by Subscription' in the Moderate Conservative or
Middle Conservative position in American Lutheranism. As a 'Forum' the
intent is that there will be an ongoing discussion of theological issues and
concerns among clergy and lay alike. The LSM-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
For information or to make comment contact:
2837 East New York St., Indianapolis, IN 46201
AOL & Internet Contact: LMS USA@aol.com
P. O. Box 31
Chetek, WI 54728