Committee discusses LCMS role in Lutheran-Catholic dialogue

The possibility of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod once again being a full participant in the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue was raised Oct. 14 at a meeting in Chicago of the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation (CLC).
The CLC has six members from each the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and from the Missouri Synod, including ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick.
The issue of LCMS participation arose when Dr. Randall R. Lee, director of the ELCA’s Department for Ecumenical Affairs, reported on the recently concluded 10th round of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States.  That round this year released a statement, “The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries.”
“I took the opportunity to reiterate our desire to be full participants, not just observers, in the dialogue,” Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger told Reporter.  A member of the CLC, Nafzger is executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR).
The Missouri Synod was a full participant in the dialogue from its beginning in 1965 through the ninth round but was not included as a full participant in the 10th round.  Instead, the Synod was invited only to have an official observer, Dr. Charles Arand of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
In 1992, ELCA and Roman Catholic officials planned a consultation on future talks for the following year without contacting the Missouri Synod.  Then-LCMS President A.L. Barry wrote to officials of the respective church bodies to express his concern over the development.
“We want to be full participants,” Nafzger said.  “President Barry wrote this, the commission adopted a resolution commending him for it, and President Kieschnick and I have reiterated this.”
To the 1995 Synod convention, the CTCR reported, “At its September 1992 meeting the CTCR adopted a statement expressing its disappointment with the action to exclude the LCMS from the discussions of the consultation and declaring its support for Dr. Barry’s letter, in which he reaffirmed the longstanding commitment of the LCMS to ecumenical dialogue.”
“Just because we have not yet resolved important points of disagreement doesn’t mean we don’t want to participate in the dialogue,” Nafzger told Reporter.  “We are committed to working toward a resolution of disagreements.”
The ELCA’s Lee told the CLC that a proposed topic for the next round of talks is “Hope for Eternal Life.”
In other discussions, CLC members reported on issues and developments in their respective church bodies, including a review of this year’s LCMS convention and key items on the agenda for next year’s ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

The day before the CLC met, ELCA and LCMS representatives met in Chicago for the second in a series of theological talks.
A news release prepared by the participants said the talks “sought greater mutual understanding, focusing on areas of continued cooperation and differences between the two churches.”  Two papers were presented related to the report of the LCMS president and vice presidents to this year’s Synod convention evaluating current cooperative pastoral working arrangements with the ELCA.
Kieschnick presented a paper on the development of the report and the action of the convention.  ELCA Secretary Lowell Almen described the importance from the ELCA’s perspective of maintaining cooperative pastoral working arrangements, especially in regard to chaplaincy, the release said.
The two church bodies cooperate in support for military chaplains, social ministry chaplaincy and social ministry organizations, and some schools and campus ministries.  Joint work is carried out through Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America and Lutheran Disaster Response.
Almen and LCMS Secretary Raymond L. Hartwig characterized the Oct. 13 discussion as “insightful and constructive,” the release said.
In addition to Kieschnick, Hartwig and Nafzger, LCMS participants in the theological talks or the CLC were Synod First Vice President William R. Diekelman; Michigan District President William Hoesman; Rev. Ralph Blomenberg, Seymour, Ind.; and Dr. Walter A. Maier III of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.
In addition to Hanson, Almen, and Lee, ELCA participants in one or both meetings were Rev. Charles S. Miller, ELCA executive for administration; Rev. E. Roy Riley, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod; and Dr. Timothy J. Wengert of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
The next meeting of the ELCA-LCMS theological talks will be March 29 in St. Louis.  The CLC will meet in St. Louis March 30.
Some information for this story was provided by John Brooks, the ELCA’s director for news and information.

Posted Oct. 20, 2004

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