ST. LOUIS – The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) said he is “profoundly grateful” for the decision of the 62nd Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to continue discussions with the ELCA.
In a brief address to delegates, Rev. Mark S. Hanson referred to the convention’s adoption of Res. 3-07 earlier today (July 14). The resolution, adopted 672-479, calls for continued discussion between representatives of the two church bodies on a variety of Scriptural, theological and church topics.
“We [ELCA] share with you the commitment to a continuing effort to bear witness to the truth of the Scriptures and the Confessions in the hope that agreement can be reached in areas where we disagree,” he said.
The ELCA presiding bishop asked the delegates to continue “in well-doing,” together as church bodies, and he asked that members of both bodies “not fail” to pray for one another.
Hanson focused his remarks on areas of common history and ministry. “As Lutherans, we stand on the shoulders of giants. We stand on the shoulders of Dr. Martin Luther. We stand on the shoulders of other leaders in the Lutheran Reformation of the 16th century,” he said.
Hanson pointed out that Lutherans “stand on the shoulders of courageous forebears.” He noted the arrival of some 700 “Lutheran pioneers” who settled in Perry County, Missouri, and formed a church body that became the LCMS. C.F.W. Walther, the first president, “emerged as a strong, insightful, courageous leader of those Saxon immigrants,” Hanson said.
“He appropriately takes his place among the giants of Lutheran history — giants upon whose shoulders you and I now stand,” Hanson said.
The 5-million member ELCA, like the LCMS, confesses “Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the Gospel as the power of God for the salvation of all who believe,” he said. The two Lutheran churches share common beliefs in the Scriptures, the creeds, the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and the other confessional writings of the Book of Concord, Hanson said.
“We face challenges and opportunities of contemporary witness,” Hanson said. “I remain grateful for the strategic ways in which our two church bodies cooperate in the critically needed service of care and compassion.” He cited shared ministries such as Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America and Lutheran Disaster Response.
Cooperative efforts of the two church bodies in military chaplaincy are “a special area of cooperation,” with many serving today in Afghanistan and Iraq, Hanson said. Lutheran military chaplains represent “a superb and courageous group of pastors,” he added. At this convention, the LCMS Praesidium recommended the two church bodies continue their cooperative efforts in military chaplaincy.
In addition to his role as ELCA presiding bishop, Hanson is president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), based in Geneva, Switzerland. The LWF is a global communion of 136 Lutheran churches in 73 countries.
“I am grateful for ongoing conversations that now are taking place with representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the International Lutheran Council (ILC),” Hanson said. Hanson said he knows the LCMS, an ILC member, has been a leader in the ILC activities including the LWF-ILC conversations. The ILC has 29 member Lutheran church bodies.
Hanson also congratulated Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS president, on his re-election July 11 to a second three-year term.
Posted July 14, 2004