Representatives of ELCA and LCMS Meet for Talks

 — June 25, 199925 juin 1999

A 20-member panel of participants from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) met for the first in a series of three two-day discussion sessions on topics of mutual concern to the two church bodies.

The first discussion session was held June 14-15 at the Lutheran Center in Chicago, which is the ELCA’s churchwide office.

Following the meeting, the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, and the Rev. Raymond Hartwig, LCMS secretary, characterized the discussion as informed and informative. The discussion, they agreed, laid the groundwork for the future meetings and pointed to possible topics for further exploration.

Ten members from each church body participated in the discussion. Presiding Bishop George Anderson appointed the ELCA participants and President A. L. Barry named the LCMS members.

In addition to President Barry and Secretary Hartwig, the LCMS participants were: First Vice President Robert T. Kuhn; Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; Dr. Ronald Feuerhahn and Dr. James Voelz of Concordia Theological Seminary in St. Louis; Dr. William Weinrich and Prof. Kurt Marquart of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.; Dr. Carl Fickenscher, pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Garland, Texas; and the Rev. Harold Senkbeil, pastor of Elm Grove Lutheran Church in Elm Grove, Wis.

Participants from the ELCA, in addition to Presiding Bishop Anderson and Secretary Almen, were: Dr. Phyllis B. Anderson, director of the Institute for Ecumenical and Theological Studies at the School of Theology and Ministry of Seattle University; Bishop Guy S. Edmiston of the Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg, Pa.; Mr. David J. Hardy of Palatine, Ill., former general counsel of the ELCA; Ms. Edith M. Lohr, director of Lutheran Social Services of New England, Natick, Mass.; the Rev. Patricia J. Lull, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Athens, Ohio; Bishop Stanley N. Olson of the Southwestern Minnesota Synod, Redwood Falls, Minn.; Dr. H. Frederick Reisz, president of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.; and Dr. Paul J. Seastrand, pastor of First English Lutheran Church, Billings, Mont.

Providing staff services for the meeting was Dr. Randall R. Lee, executive assistant to the ELCA secretary and associate for bilateral dialogues in the ELCA’s Department for Ecumenical Affairs.

During the first day of this initial meeting, Bishop Edmiston and Prof. Marquart presented papers on the ecumenical decisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Bishop Edmiston traced the roots of Lutheran ecumenism from the 17th century immigration to North America through 19th and 20th century church documents, including the 1991 ELCA policy statement, “Ecumenism The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.” He stated that the ELCA’s goal is to make a visible witness to the world of God’s saving activity in Christ.

Prof. Marquart examined the specific ecumenical decisions made by the ELCA in 1997 (Lutheran-Reformed “Formula of Agreement” and Lutheran- Roman Catholic “Joint Statement on the Doctrine of Justification”). He also discussed the proposal for a relationship of full communion between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church. He expressed the belief that such agreements can only be achieved at the expense of core Christian beliefs.

During the second day of the meeting, Secretary Almen read a paper on “Lutheran Identity in a Post-Modern Society from the Perspective of the History, Experience, and Life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”

Almen gave a brief history of more than 350 years of Lutheran experience and practice in the transplanting of Lutheran churches from Europe to North America. He said the history, practices, and character of Lutheran churches shape their culture. The life and practice of the ELCA is shaped significantly, he observed, by the fact that the ELCA is not only the product of a church merger 1987 but, before that, of many mergers in predecessor church bodies in the 20th century.

Dr. Voelz also presented a paper, “Reading Scripture as a Contemporary Lutheran: Lutheran Identity in a Post-Modern Era.”

He analyzed contemporary American society and the changing ways that people receive and process information. He related his observations regarding these the emerging processes to the ways Lutherans and other Christians have read Scripture and written their confessions throughout history.

Each paper was followed by questions for clarification and elaboration, as well as extensive discussion by the participants.

A plan for ELCA-LCMS conversations resulted from proposals by Presiding Bishop Anderson and President Barry. Further impetus for such discussions was provided by a resolution adopted by the 1998 LCMS triennial convention, supporting President Barry “as he continues to work together with the presiding bishop of the ELCA in arranging for discussion of these issues between representatives of our two church bodies.”

The next meeting of the discussion group is planned for St. Louis on February 14-15, 2000. Topics of the papers for that meeting will be determined by President Barry and Presiding Bishop Anderson.

The ELCA has 5.2 million members in nearly 11,000 congregations throughout the United States and the Caribbean; the LCMS includes 2.6 million members in more than 6000 congregations. =20 (**This summary was prepared by the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, secretary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Rev. Raymond L. Hartwig, secretary of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.)

Posted: June 25, 1999 • Permanent link:
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 25 juin 1999 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : ELCA News

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