HOUSTON – Delegates to the 63rd Regular Convention declared July 16 that The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is in church fellowship with the American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC).
With headquarters in Minnesota and 78 U.S. congregations, the AALC becomes the 30th partner church of the LCMS and the only one based in the United States. Delegates approved the declaration of church fellowship by a vote of 846 to 345.
The declaration recognizes agreement in doctrine and practice between the two church bodies and permits the members of each to commune at the other’s altars and for their pastors to exchange pulpits.
“By the action you have just taken, and by that taken by the AALC in convention last month, we have just declared fellowship with one another in those sacred gifts given by our Lord himself to us, which He bestows upon us through His Holy Word and sacrament,” said Rev. Thomas Aadland, AALC presiding pastor. “This is truly a joyful and an awesome thing -– that the unity we have in Christ has now been so expressed because of mutually recognized concord in faith and life.”
Aadland spoke about the differences between the two church bodies, citing size for one. “I make it out that LCMS is twice as large as the AALC — you reckon the number of your congregations in four digits. We currently require only two.” He also compared the history of the two church bodies, noting that both were created as a result of “dispossession and the cost of confessing Christ and the truth of His Scripture, His Gospel.”
As delegates debated the resolution, there were questions concerning the AALC’s subscription to the complete Book of Concord and about pastors removed from the roster of the Synod and now serving in AALC congregations.
Synod President Gerald B. Kieschnick assured delegates that “all matters will be taken into consideration, as we continue to present a united witness.”
The AALC was established in 1987 by pastors and congregations concerned about doctrinal positions –- especially the authority of Scripture –- of the church bodies involved in the merger negotiations of the American Lutheran Church, the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, and the Lutheran Church in America, which became the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1988.
The AALC has 107 active pastors and 14,137 baptized members.
The LCMS convention, which meets every three years, is being held July 14-19 in Houston. The convention theme is “One Message –- Christ! His Love is Here for You!”