LWF, ILC reps agree to continue to meet, talk

Representatives of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC) have agreed that their organizations should maintain contact and continue to talk with each other.

LWF and ILC representatives met Oct. 30 to Nov. 2 in Jarvenpaa, Finland, under the theme, “What Unites Us?  What Divides Us?”  It was their second meeting since current talks began last year.

According to a “communique” from this year’s meeting, further contacts would enable the LWF and ILC “to deal with different areas of theological agreements and disagreements between churches of both organizations.”

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod is a member of the ILC.  It is the largest Lutheran church body in the world that is not a member of the LWF.

Four specific agreements came out of the meeting, according to the communique:

  • “The ILC executive secretary and the LWF general secretary will convene a small group of representatives from each organization to take into consideration tensions resulting from activities, statements or policies of churches of the two organizations or agencies related to them.”
  • “The ILC and the LWF should consider hosting joint symposiums on issues of faith and life that affect Lutherans and people throughout the world.”
  • “The ILC and the LWF and/or their member churches should be encouraged to invite observers to each other’s official meetings and consultations.”
  • “The ILC and the LWF should encourage their member churches to seek or improve positive relations in their respective regions and to cooperate wherever possible in local events, public issues, outreach endeavors and provision of human care.”

LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko and ILC Executive Secretary Samuel H. Nafzger are to “prepare for implementation of the agreements reached,” the communique said.  Nafzger also is executive director of the Missouri Synod’s Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

Speaking to the meeting’s theme, the communique said, “It was apparent that formal acceptance of the Biblical and confessional writings has not led to agreement in all matters of faith and life.”

In a paper presented at the meeting, Nafzger said, “It is my contention that the issues which both unite and divide us have to do primarily with three topics — what we mean by the authority of Scripture …, the understanding of confessional subscription, and our disagreement on `how much agreement is necessary’ for church fellowship.”  He said that the three issues result in more-visible differences among Lutheran churches, such as on homosexuality, abortion and the ordination of women.

“Lutherans have consistently held for over 400 years that doctrinal agreement is the necessary basis for the practice of church fellowship at the altar and in the pulpit,” Nafzger said.  “I believe that this is precisely the view which the Scriptures themselves clearly teach and which Lutherans must continue to maintain.

“But it is my conviction that it is also precisely because we members of LWF and ILC churches recognize that we are already one in Christ that we have no choice but to seek to manifest this unity in Christ by continuing to attempt to resolve those things which divide us `so that the world may believe,'” he said.

The LWF’s Noko also delivered a paper, touching on many of the same issues.

“As Lutheran churches we should take very seriously the issue of what it is that really divides us,” Noko said.  “This involves looking at our differences in the light of the characteristic Lutheran distinction between what is necessary and what is not necessary for the unity of the church.

“On this point there are differences in views between our two families.  And we recognize that divisions exist within each of our families as well,” he continued.  “In my view this provides an additional reason why we need a dialogue.”

Each organization had seven representatives at the meeting.  Among those from the ILC was LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick.

December 2003

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