By Linda C. Hoops
The third dialogue between The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), held Oct. 27-28 on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary (CTS), Fort Wayne, Ind., addressed “Contemporary Issues Facing the Church in North America.”
Presentations focused on cultural questions and challenges facing the church today, from biblical interpretation, to human sexuality and ministry, to Christian theology and technology in a post-Christian age.
Representing the LCMS were Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison; the Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary and chairman of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR); the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of Church Relations – assistant to the president; the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the CTCR; the Rev. Larry Vogel, CTCR associate executive director; and the Rev. Dr. Frederic Baue, a retired pastor.
The ACNA representatives were Bishop Rev. Dr. Ray Sutton of the Diocese of Mid-America; the Rev. Dr. Grant LeMarquand, professor of Biblical Studies and Mission at Trinity School for Ministry, Pittsburgh; and the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Riches, assistant academic dean and associate professor of Liturgics and Theology at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary, Blue Bell, Pa.
The Rev. Dr. John Stephenson, professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, represented Lutheran Church-Canada.
For the host institution, Rast welcomed the dialogue partners, stating: “The church finds itself facing a crucial moment in history. It is imperative that we maintain our faithful confession.” CTS professors Rev. Dr. William Weinrich and Rev. Dr. Cameron MacKenzie guided the participants in considerations of the possible future of both church bodies.
Sutton spoke on “Godly Men in the Presbyterate and Episcopate,” LeMarquand discussed “Godly Men and Women in Holy Orders,” and Riches gave a presentation on “The Church Engaging Culture: Social Ministry, not Social Gospel.”
“While there are many areas of agreement between the ACNA and the LCMS, there also are differences,” said Collver. “The dialogue has taken an open and honest approach in recognizing differences between the church bodies.”
Riches remarked, “It is clear that we share much in common. Not only do we share similar histories and contemporary challenges, we have a common foundation in Scripture and historic orthodox doctrine. Both the Anglican Church in North America and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod strongly affirm the authority of Scripture and the Creeds. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion have roots not only in the Augsburg Confession, but in meetings between Lutherans and Anglicans centuries ago.”
Vogel noted via email that while the ACNA and the LCMS do not agree on all doctrinal matters, “the spirit of the meetings continues to be very positive — not because we and our Anglican friends agree on everything (although we do find ourselves in strong agreement in a remarkable number of ways). Rather, the spirit is positive because we are able to speak frankly and honestly, discussing both areas of agreement and disagreement without taking offense at strong convictions.”
Harrison, who spoke on the challenges and opportunities facing today’s church, hopes the dialogues with the ACNA will help “strengthen and encourage creedal and evangelical Christians in these last dark days. It is refreshing to discuss with people who are creedal, evangelical and believe the Bible,” he said.
“By creedal, we mean people who accept the Apostles’, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds and who take them very seriously, not simply as historical documents, but as confessions of faith, which both the Missouri Synod and the Anglican Church in North America do,” added Collver.
To watch a three-part video of Harrison’s address at an open forum for the dialogue session in Fort Wayne, click here.
The first dialogue in November 2010 focused on the historical backgrounds of the ACNA and the LCMS and the second dialogue in May 2011 focused on the question of authority, both Scriptural authority and ecclesial authority.
The fourth dialogue, tentatively planned for March 29-30, 2012, at the Nashotah House near Milwaukee, will address the theme of “Worship and Liturgy.”
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted Nov. 3, 2011