“The Gospel and Our Common Witness in the Public Square” was the theme and one of several topics addressed during a Dec. 16-17 consultation at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (CSL), involving leaders of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).
The consultation was a continuation of fraternal discussions among representatives of the three church bodies that began in December 2011.
According to its website, the NALC “is a fast-growing Christian church body in the Lutheran tradition, uniting more than 130,000 Lutherans in more than 355 congregations across North America.” Nearly all of those congregations are former members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that left the church body because of its positions on human sexuality.
A keynote lecture and forum on the consultation theme was open to the public. Dr. Robert Benne, an NALC associate member and professor emeritus at Roanoke College, Salem, Va., delivered that keynote lecture. Two CSL faculty members — the Rev. Dr. Charles Arand, professor and chairman of Systematic Theology, and the Rev. Dr. Leopoldo Sánchez, associate professor of Systematic Theology and director of the Center for Hispanic Studies — then offered responses to the lecture, followed by a Q-and-A period involving the audience.
The consultation also included sharing of developments and work of each church body from their respective leaders; discussion of inter-Lutheran and ecumenical conversations; and possibilities for cooperation in areas of joint concern, including disaster relief, sanctity of human life, religious freedom, marriage and human sexuality, and immigration. The group also heard an update about work on a book of essays on the Lutheran doctrine of Law and Gospel by theologians of the three church bodies, which is being edited by the Rev. Dr. James Nestingen, who is a retired NALC professor, and the Rev. John Pless, assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Consultation participants — in addition to Nestingen and Pless — included LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison; LCC President Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee; the Rev. John Bradosky, bishop of the NALC; NALC General Secretary Rev. Mark Chavez; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director, and the Rev. Larry Vogel, associate executive director, of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations; and the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, assistant to the bishop of the NALC for Ecumenism. Also joining the discussions was LCMS First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herbert C. Mueller Jr.
The next meeting of the consultation is being planned for June at the LCC office in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.