By Adriane Dorr
PEACHTREE CITY, Ga. — In a world filled with secularism, relativism, liberalism and atheism, Lutherans can be in danger of “losing our identity and making compromises in good intention but being misled by our feelings,” warned the Rev. Dr. Jobst Schöne, bishop emeritus of the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELK) of Germany.
Schöne, the headlining speaker for the second day of the International Conference on Confessional Leadership held here through Nov. 2, addressed some 120 confessional leaders representing more than 20 million Lutherans around the world.
Outlining a worldwide need for Life Together (Koinonia) among Lutherans, Schöne said that “It’s not a man-made Koinonia that we should try to find. Koinonia is and remains a divine gift.”
It is “always Christ Himself by whom [we] are placed into this Koinonia,” he noted.
This cross-focused life together “overcomes borders of all kinds: ethnic, cultural, social, race, gender or other kind,” Schöne explained, “making Christians altogether ‘one in Christ'” (Gal. 3:28).
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison also presented to the conference, speaking on the topic of Lutheran Diakonia (Mercy). “The Church’s work of mercy extends beyond its own borders,” he said. “Jesus became incarnate in our flesh, and we take on the flesh of our neighbor when we serve our neighbor.”
“If we refuse to live that incarnate life,” he warned, “we render the Gospel a clanging cymbal.”
The Rev. Dr. Joseph Omolo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya noted that the church in Africa, as in Germany, also is experiencing an onslaught of liberalism and secularism. Because of this, “When we are talking about Koinonia in an African context, we must consider our position as … confessional Lutherans who want to teach, believe and confess the truth of the Scripture as rightly found in our Lutheran Confessions.”
“We are confessional Lutherans,” he said, “and want to remain so.”
The Rev. Dr. Christian Rautenberg of the Confessional Lutheran Church of Chile emphasized that a discussion of Koinonia is “more than words, formulas and agreements. It’s sharing the same Lord, Jesus Christ, as one Church, preaching the Gospel that all human beings need to hear.”
Deaconess Cynthia Lumley, associate director of Deaconess Studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., also offered a response, speaking to the subject of Diakonia (Mercy). Explaining the role of deaconess in the church, she noted, “Diakonia is only possible when we are fed at God’s altar, fed by His Word and Sacrament. Christ at work in us is Christ serving others.”
Other respondents from Lithuania, Canada, Korea, Latvia, Brazil and Madagascar also presented.
Speakers on Oct. 31 included the Rev. Dr. Alister McGrath, professor of Theology, Ministry and Education at King’s College, London, as well as Lutheran pastors from Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America.
Presentations on Nov. 2 will focus on “Witness” (Martyria) and will feature the Rev. Dr. Gemechis Buba of the North American Lutheran Church.
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted Nov. 1, 2012