“Church Fellowship” — a new Synod website at www.lcms.org/churchfellowship — provides extensive resources for a major three-year study of Article VI of the LCMS Constitution that was mandated by Resolution 8-30B of the 2010 LCMS convention.
Article VI presents “conditions for acquiring and holding membership in the Synod,” one of which is “renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description, such as serving congregations of mixed confession, as such, by ministers of the church; taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession; [and] participating in heterodox tracts and missionary activities.”
The 2010 resolution, which delegates adopted by an 850-286 margin, called on the Synod president, “in consultation with the Council of Presidents, the Commission on Theology and Church Relations and the Commission on Constitutional Matters, [to] make provisions for the preparation of materials ([for] a study) that explain the biblical, confessional, and historical basis for Article VI of the Synod’s Constitution and the current and historic bylaws that elucidate the article.”
The resolution also called for encouraging LCMS congregations to “engage in the study to promote unity, harmony, and understanding” and for the Synod’s Commission on Handbook to “submit a proposal to clarify and affirm or amend Article VI to the next convention of the Synod.”
The Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, the Synod’s director of Church Relations, led development of the website for the LCMS Office of the President, with assistance from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., President Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast; the Rev. Dr. Gerhard H. Bode Jr., assistant professor and chairman of the Historical Theology department at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and LCMS Communications.
“We see districts, circuits and congregations using this [website] for study. … It will be up to each one to decide how they want to approach such a study,” Collver told Reporter, adding that those approaches might include Bible classes and other congregational settings, circuit forums, pastoral conferences and other meetings of professional church workers, and convention essays.
The resources currently on the new site are:
- Article VI of the LCMS Constitution.
- 2001 LCMS Convention Resolution 7-17A, titled “To Affirm Synod’s Official Position on Church and Ministry.”
A summary on the website about this resource states, “In Kirche und Amt (Church and Office) by Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Missouri Synod, is a series of theses with explanations about the Church and pastoral ministry. In Thesis VIII on the Church, Dr. Walther clearly explains what is meant by ‘unionism’ and ‘syncretism.’ Article VI of the Synod’s Constitution can be illuminated by Dr. Walther’s Thesis VIII on the Church. At convention in 2001, the Synod declared that the entire book, Kirche und Amt (Church and Office) is the official position of the Missouri Synod. This is a reaffirmation of the Synod’s declaration in 1851 and 1852 of this stance.”
- the Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther’s Thesis VIII.
- “A Reader of LCMS Church Fathers (especially C.F.W. Walther): On Avoidance of Unionism and Syncretism,” by the Rev. Joel R. Baseley, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Dearborn, Mich.
- Excerpts from The Church, by the Rev. Dr. Kurt E. Marquart.
“The Lutheran Confessions have a great deal to say about church fellowship,” according to a summary of this resource. “Dr. Kurt Marquart, in his book The Church, has a section on church fellowship with passages from Dr. Martin Luther, the Lutheran Confessions and the fathers of the Missouri Synod.”
- Union and Confession, a book by Dr. Hermann Sasse that addresses unionism and synchretism.
Collver added that the study over the next three years is “particularly timely, since right now there are all sorts of civic events that pastors and congregations have questions about.
“We’re also being approached by a number of churches from around the world,” he continued. “What is the appropriate way to interact with them and have fellowship with them?”
Collver explained that the “next convention” reference in the 2010 Resolution 8-30A, concerning “a proposal to clarify and affirm or amend Article VI,” now applies to the 2016 LCMS convention.
In addition to the six major study documents, he said that other items being considered for the website include Bible studies, videos and a complete bibliography of resources through which a more comprehensive study might be conducted.
“There will be plenty of resources for this major study at literally all levels of our church body over the next triennium,” Collver said. “We pray God’s blessing on it.”
Posted March 6, 2013 / Updated March 8, 2013/Updated March 27, 2013