LCMS, WELS, ELS release report on years of informal discussion

Representatives of three confessional Lutheran synods gather for a group shot Dec. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla., when they accepted a report on informal dialogues they have held over the past three years. (Courtesy of Albert B. Collver III)

Representatives of three confessional Lutheran synods gather for a group shot Dec. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla., when they accepted a report on informal discussions they have held over the past three years. (Courtesy of Albert B. Collver III)

By Roger Drinnon

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) have released a report on informal discussion among the synods that began in 2012.



Report on the 2012-15 Meetings of ELS, LCMS, and WELS Leaders” was accepted by representatives from all three synods Dec. 2, in conjunction with a fourth meeting they held in Jacksonville, Fla. Among the representatives were LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder and ELS President Rev. John A. Moldstad Jr.

The document serves as a mutually approved report to each synod about the status of the informal discussions and meetings held each December since 2012. The document notes that since the preliminary meeting in 2012, all three synods have adopted convention resolutions to encourage continued informal discussion. A meeting in 2013 focused on the doctrine of church and ministry. Informal talks in 2014 focused on the doctrine of church fellowship, and 2015’s discussions focused on hermeneutics (methods of biblical interpretation).



“[Nearly] 55 years after the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and 60 years after the Evangelical Lutheran Synod suspended fellowship with the Missouri Synod, the three synods have been engaged in informal discussion for the past three years,” said the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of LCMS Church Relations. “The informal discussions have resulted in the recognition that the three synods … have significant agreement in the primary areas of theology. We also recognize that a great deal of additional conversation and work must continue on areas where we do not have full agreement.”

The synods were once in fellowship as members of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America (also known as the Synodical Conference). When fellowship was suspended between the ELS and the LCMS in 1955 and between WELS and the LCMS in 1961, it was understood that efforts would continue toward overcoming the differences that led to these breaks in fellowship.



An excerpt from the report jointly recognizes the challenges Christians face today and the need for confessional Lutherans to continue informal discussion, stating: “Around us in America, we see a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. It is good to be in conversation with the few who are still committed to confessional Lutheranism. This is something that the LCMS especially has been trying to do around the world, bringing Lutherans together and encouraging them to be faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.”

The report acknowledges that although challenges remain, participants are encouraged that these efforts will continue toward perhaps someday re-establishing fellowship among the three synods.

“It has been a joy to meet with and talk with faithful Lutherans from the WELS and ELS,” said Collver. “We pray that the Lord would continue to bless this endeavor and, Deo volente [God willing], grant a restoration of fellowship between the three synods at some point in the future.”

Read Report

Roger Drinnon ( is manager of Editorial Services for LCMS Communications.

Posted Dec. 8, 2015 / Updated Dec. 17 and 18, 2015

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7 Responses to LCMS, WELS, ELS release report on years of informal discussion

  1. MWolfy December 8, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    An announcement that we are talking? Well that’s good. I’d be more thrilled if the article were announcing restored fellowship though.

    • David Kendall December 10, 2015 at 1:54 am #

      hmm wow I wonder why the elca and wels decided not to be a part of the LCMS anymore… i knew the elca broke off the lcms a long time ago and went a different direction as far as beliefs are concerned… Ive been a Lcms person all my life… I was born in Lcms and etc… but recently came back to the church… i was a child when all the turmoil was going on with all the changes to the Lcms back in the 70s.
      my parents are Pentecoastal now but in the beginning we were al LCMS. my entire family was…

      • Madeleine December 15, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

        The elca did not actually break off the lcms. A small group of churches broke off the lcms and joined two other denominations (who have a long history of their own in the usa) about ten years later to form the elca.

  2. Martin E. Keller December 9, 2015 at 3:44 am #

    Thank you for the progress report on the talks. May God grant that they bear fruit.

  3. Gene Halterman December 9, 2015 at 10:10 am #

    In this day and age where Christianity Is being attacked from all sides, we as Lutherans should be aggressive In our cooperation. There is strength in numbers. Maybe a confederation of Lutherans where we tolerate each others short comings is in order. Not agreeing is one thing but not realizing our commonalities is downright dumb. Pulpit fellowship should be down the road, but communing with fellow Lutherans is a must NOW.

  4. John Gardner December 9, 2015 at 9:39 pm #

    I am a member of a LCMS congregation in Onalaska Wisconsin. There is a WELS congregation less than a mile from our home and our church. It is wonderful to discover work with integrity to explore possibilities of reestablishing fellowship over the next decades as well as continuing to explore similarities and differences in the near term. Blessings in Christ to all who are participating in these informal discussions.

  5. Rik Eischen December 10, 2015 at 1:49 am #

    I am so very thankful that representatives from the LCMS, the WELS and the ELS have been engaged in these informal discussions. I have been praying for this for a great many years, and even the development so far is an answer to prayer. May God continue to bless continued discussions, and may each Lutheran synod included keep their focus on what God teaches us in Holy Scripture. We need to be faithful to Holy Scripture and not compromise, yet the Holy Spirit can bring about greater unity as we are greater united on God’s holy revelation. May our sinful natures not get in the way of our desire to talk with one another (as well as listen) and better understand what we believe, and why. In everything, Soli Deo Gloria!

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