LCMS, ELCA meet for doctrinal talks

Representatives of the Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met Nov. 11 for their first formal theological talks since both church bodies elected new leaders in 2001.

“We sat down and talked about the hard questions that divide us,” Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, told Reporter.

Six representatives from each church body met for the day of talks in Baltimore.  They focused on:

  • a 2001 LCMS convention resolution that initiated a review of cooperative pastoral working arrangements between the Missouri Synod and the ELCA.  In it, the Synod affirmed the late LCMS President A.L. Barry judgment that “we cannot consider them [the ELCA] to be an orthodox Lutheran church body.”  A paper on the matter was delivered by LCMS Secretary Raymond Hartwig.
  • the ELCA’s theological and confessional rationale for its full-communion relationships with three Reformed church bodies, The Episcopal Church and the Moravian Church.  Dr. Timothy J. Wengert, a church-history professor at The Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, delivered a paper on that topic.

“The conversation was characterized by frank discussion of the doctrinal issues that divide the two church bodies as well as the recognition that areas of consensus exist between them,” said a joint statement released after the meeting.  It added, “Participants described the meeting as an honest, forthright and helpful discussion of the positions of the church bodies.”

LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick told Reporter that “we believe we have something to say to the ELCA.  Conversely, we need to hear what they say to us.”

Kieschnick co-chaired the discussion with ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson.  Both men were elected to their respective offices in 2001.  Previous discussions were held when Barry and Dr. H. George Anderson led the Missouri Synod and ELCA respectively.

A second meeting for the new series of theological talks is scheduled for April in St. Louis.

LCMS representatives in addition to Kieschnick, Nafzger and Hartwig are Dr. Ralph Blomenburg, pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Seymour, Ind.; Dr. C. William Hoesman, chairman of the Council of Presidents; and Dr. Walter A. Maier III, associate professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.

December 2003

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The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

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