LCMS, WELS, and ELS leaders report significant doctrinal agreement

wels-els-lcms

USA – The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have released a report noting significant doctrinal agreement between the three synods, following three years of informal dialogue.

Following a fourth meeting held December 2, 2015, leaders of the three synods agreed to the publication of A Report on the Meetings of ELS, LCMS, and WELS Leaders 2012-2015. Among the representatives present for the event were LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, WELS President Mark Schroeder, and ELS President John A. Moldstad.

Primary among the contents of the report is an assessment of the doctrinal agreement already shared by the three synods. “We agree that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the only source of authority for doctrine and practice,” the report notes. “We agree that the chief message of the Bible is justification by grace through faith in the merits of Jesus Christ, and that the entire Bible is Christ-centered. All of us also confess without reservation (quia) that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures.”

The LCMS previously enjoyed fellowship together with the ELS and the WELS until 1955 and 1961, the document notes, before breaking fellowship as a result of doctrinal controversies in the LCMS that peaked in the 1970s. Today, the three synods share such a level of doctrinal agreement that there is a strong desire for further discussion “with the hope that we may be able to come to full agreement under the guidance and blessing of the Holy Spirit.” They note, however, that a number of issues still need to be resolved, writing, “All of us are convinced that church fellowship requires complete agreement in doctrine.”

“It has been a joy to meet with and talk with faithful Lutherans from the WELS and ELS,” said Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, Director of LCMS Church Relations. “We pray that the Lord would continue to bless this endeavor and, Deo volente [God willing], grant a restoration of fellowship between the three synods at some point in the future.”

Read the full report here.

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a member church of the International Lutheran Council and has approximately 2.1 million members. The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 400 thousand members) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (approximately 20 thousand members) are American churches in full-fellowship with each other. WELS and ELS are member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.

———————

International Lutheran Council – Roman Catholic dialogue begins

Participants in the dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Roman Catholic Church.
Participants in the dialogue between the International Lutheran Council and the Roman Catholic Church.

GERMANY – Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) met October 7-8 on the campus of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Oberursel, Germany to initiate a three-year series of informal academic dialogues. Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Chairman of the ILC, greeted the participants and wished them God’s blessing and good progress for their discussions.

The Roman Catholic delegation includes Professor Dr. Wolfgang Thönissen (Presiding Director of the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism, Paderborn, Germany); Professor Dr. Josef Freitag (University of Erfurt, Germany); Dr. Burkhard Neumann (a Director at the Möhler Institute); Professor Dr. Grant Kaplan (St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, USA), and Father Dr. Augustinus Sander, OSB (Maria Laach, Germany). Representing the ILC were Professor Dr. Werner Klän (President of the Lutheran Theological Seminary, Oberursel); Professor Dr. John Stephenson (Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON, Canada); Professor Dr. Roland Ziegler (Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN, USA); Professor Dr. Gerson Linden (Concordia Seminary, São Leopoldo, Brazil); and Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver (Director of Church Relations and Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, St. Louis, MO, USA).

The way had been paved for this consultation by a three-year series of talks carried out on a national level within Germany. Because of the positive developments achieved at that time, representatives of the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Oberursel had appealed for discussions to continue on an international basis.

At this initial consultation evaluations were shared from a confessional Lutheran point of view of documents already produced by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Roman Catholic Church. Discussions focused specifically on the documents The Eucharist (1978), The Ministry in the Church (1981), and Church and Justification (1993). In addition, Roman Catholic participants were made aware of an ILC response to the document produced in 2014 by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Unity Commission entitled From Conflict to Communion. This response was recently approved formally by the 25th ILC World Conference, meeting September 24-27 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Beyond findings reached in Lutheran-Catholic dialogues up to the present time, the goal of the planned discussions is to determine whether exchanges between confessional Lutherans and Catholics could lead to mutual enrichment leading to a discovery—or re-discovery—of a certain shared apostolic, catholic heritage.

The next meeting of the dialogue commission is set for May, 2016, in either Erfurt or Paderborn.

———————

Danish Church issues translation of “Living in an Ecumenical World”

The logo for the ELFCD's 2014 convention. In Danish, it reads "On This Rock I Will Build."
The logo for the ELFCD’s 2014 convention. In Danish, it reads “On This Rock I Will Build.”

DENMARK – The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Denmark (ELFCD) held its annual convention July 19-20 in Langeland. At that time, it released a Danish translation of the European Lutheran Conference (ELC) guidance document “Living in an Ecumenical World.”

The event saw 75 Danish Lutherans and guests gather together under the theme “On this Rock I Will Build.” Among other business, attendees heard presentations on the ELC’s 23 convention, held May 22-24, 2014 in Bleckmar, Germany, at which time “Living in an Ecumenical World” was adopted. Signatories of the document represent confessional Lutheran communities in Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Finland, the Kyrgyz Republic, Siberia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States of America.

The Danish church reports that the guidance document was well received at its annual convention, and was commended to the church’s congregations for further study. Download the Danish translation (“At leve i en Økumenisk Verden”) of the document here.

The convention was followed by a four-day summer Bible Camp. Participants studied John 20-21 in depth, as well as the story of Gideon (Judges 6-8). Rev. George Samiec (Vice-Chairman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England and Secretary of the ELC) served as guest instructor and preacher for the event.

——————–

Dialogue between LCMS, LCC, and NALC continues in Canada

Rev. Phil Gagnon (NALC Provisional Dean for Canada); Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Secretary of the LCMS' CTCR); Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC General Secretary); Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (LCC President); Rev. Dr. David Wendel (NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism); Rev. Warren Hamp (Chairman of LCC's CTCR); Rev. Thomas Prachar (LCC Central District President).
Rev. Phil Gagnon (NALC Provisional Dean for Canada); Rev. Larry Vogel (Associate Executive Secretary of the LCMS’ CTCR); Rev. Mark Chavez (NALC General Secretary); Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee (LCC President); Rev. Dr. David Wendel (NALC Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism); Rev. Warren Hamp (Chairman of LCC’s CTCR); Rev. Thomas Prachar (LCC Central District President).

WINNIPEG – Representatives of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), and Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) met at LCC’s synodical headquarters in Winnipeg June 24-25. This is the first time the meetings have taken place in Canada.

“These consultations have happened twice each year since they began at the invitation of LCMS President Matthew Harrison in late 2011,” explained Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, LCC President and host for this round of meetings. Both days began with morning devotions in the office chapel, after which participants provided updates from their churches and discussed in detail what a distinctively Lutheran understanding of and approach to mission work should include.

A progress report was provided on a planned book of new essays on Law and Gospel, including contributors from various Lutheran church bodies. In addition, details for an upcoming second international “Confessional Lutheran Leadership Conference”—hosted by the LCMS—were shared. The event will take place in Wittenberg, Germany in May 2015.

In addition to President Bugbee, LCC was represented by Rev. Warren Hamp, Chairman of the LCC’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and by Central District President Thomas Prachar. NALC participants included Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ecumenism and Ministry; Pastor Mark Chavez, General Secretary; and Rev. Phil Gagnon, NALC Provisional Dean for Canada. NALC Bishop John Bradosky joined the group briefly at the close of the first day. The LCMS was represented by Rev. Larry Vogel, Associate Executive Secretary of their CTCR.

“We’ll meet again toward the end of this year to evaluate where we’ve been in the initial three years of dialogue and to decide on the way forward,” commented President Bugbee. “Though the participating churches have disagreements in some significant areas, there is a high level of trust and an ability both to talk and to listen despite these challenges. I do thank God for common convictions about the Holy Scripture as the written Word of God, and the urgency in proclaiming Christ, the Saviour of sinners, as the primary mission of the church.”

The next round of dialogues will be hosted by NALC, and is set to be held December 15-16 in Sarasota, Florida.

Lutheran Church–Canada and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are both member churches of the International Lutheran Council (ILC). President Robert Bugbee serves as Vice-Chairman of the ILC’s Executive Committee.

———————

Files from The Canadian Lutheran.

ELC: Living in an ecumenical world

ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig takes part in group-discussions on "living in an ecumenical world." In the back, ELC Secretary George Samiec listens in.
ELC President Jean Thiébaut Haessig takes part in group-discussions on “living in an ecumenical world.” In the back, ELC Secretary George Samiec listens in.

GERMANY – The European Lutheran Conference (ELC) continued into its second day of meetings May 23 in Bleckmar, Germany.

Discussion of this year’s theme—“Living in an Ecumenical World”—continued Friday, with Chairman Jon Ehlers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in England (ELCE) giving the event’s third major presentation. Chairman Ehlers, who also serves the International Lutheran Council as its European world region representative, spoke on the practical challenges confessional Lutheran churches face today, using the experiences of the ELCE to illustrate. Among the topics he discussed were who can serve as baptismal sponsors, visitors attending worship services at which Holy Communion is being served, participation in local ecumenical events, and more.

Conference participants then broke into small groups where they discussed Chairman Ehler’s presentation, before reporting their thoughts back to the larger conference. A day earlier the same groups discussed two additional topics: the nature of the church, and how confessional Lutherans should relate to other denominations. The conclusions drawn by the ELC in these discussions will be used in the formation of a guidance document on “Living in an Ecumenical World”—a series of recommendations on the subject for confessional Lutheran congregations in Europe.

———————

Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) to Hold Informal International Dialogue

Prof. Dr. Werner Klan, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Monsignore Dr. Matthias Türk
Prof. Dr. Werner Klan, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Cardinal Kurt Koch, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Monsignore Dr. Matthias Türk

VATICAN CITY – The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (PCPCU) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC), an organization for the purpose of encouraging, strengthening, and promoting confessional Lutheran theology, met to discuss the possibility of extending local and regional informal discussions into an
informal ecumenical dialogue process on the international level. The meeting between the PCPCU and the ILC primarily occurred after several informal discussions between some ILC members and Roman Catholic organizations resulted in positive outcomes, especially those held between the Lutheran Theological Seminary Oberursel of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) and the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism in Paderborn, Germany. Other informal discussions that contributed to the meeting between the PCPCU and the ILC included those held between The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Archdiocese of Saint Louis and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, and those between Lutheran ChurchCanada (LCC) and representatives of the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Dicastery, and Monsignore Dr. Matthias Türk represented the PCPCU. Bishop Hans-Jörg Voigt, Chairman, Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Executive Secretary, Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, Vice-chairman, and Prof. Dr. Werner Klän, Lutheran Theological Seminary Oberursel, represented the ILC.

The discussion had three primary points: A Presentation of the International Lutheran Council (ILC) including its history and priorities, Ecumenical Relations between ILC members and the Roman Catholic Church, and Future Ecumenical Goals.

After a productive discussion, it was proposed that the local and regional informal discussions may be extended to an informal international dialogue process between the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church. These international series of consultations would be delegated to the ILC executive committee and to the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism. The goals of these discussions would be to define more unity between the churches represented by the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church and to offer a deeper understanding of the work already accomplished by the Lutheran – Roman Catholic dialogue on the international and regional level.

Cardinal Koch and Bishop Voigt expressed gratitude for the meeting and looked forward to a deepening of relationships between member churches of the ILC and the Roman Catholic Church.

The ILC and the Johann-Adam-Möhler Institute for Ecumenism after an organizational meeting, propose to hold two meetings a year for the next three years with the results of these discussions to be presented to the PCPCU.

———————

About the International Lutheran Council
The ILC is a worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies, consisting of 34 member churches, which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and infallible Word of God and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord as the true and faithful exposition of the Word of God. (www.ilc-online.org)

About the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity
The Pontifical Council is entrusted with the promotion of Christian Unity. It carries out this task in liaison with the various departments of the Roman Curia and through ecumenical relationships and theological dialogues with the other Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities on the world wide level. (www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/)