From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LCMS - Conferees: Synod members 'more alike than not'

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Mon, 30 Dec 2002 11:42:22 -0800

The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
Board for Communication Services

LCMSNews -- No. 85
December 27, 2002

Conferees: Synod members 'more alike than not'

Participants at last summer's "model theological conference" in Scottsdale,
Ariz., said that Missouri Synod Lutherans have more in common than what
divides them and that the gathering restored a sense of hope.

According to a summary of comments from the conference prepared by staff of
the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), participants
also said future events should have more lay involvement (most of those at
Scottsdale were pastors) and give more substantive attention to issues that
are troubling the Synod.

The Aug. 5-7 conference brought some 200 participants together to discuss
what Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions say about church fellowship,
with a focus on "cases of discretion."

Written feedback from those who were specially trained to facilitate
discussion at each of the small-group tables at the conference also was
compiled by CTCR staff.  Here is the summary of recurring themes from the
facilitators under four general headings that the staff's report said "seem
pertinent and helpful":

Areas of agreement

 A clear and faithful witness to the true God -- Father, Son and Holy
Spirit -- and to His truth must be given in the public realm, boldly and
without fear.

 The distinction between joint prayer and prayer in the presence of
non-Christians appears to be a valid one.

 Joint prayer with non-Christians is not possible under any circumstances.

 Invitations to participate in leading worship in public events that
restrict a Christian witness necessitate automatic declinations.

 The category of "cases of discretion" is a legitimate one, though
questions arise regarding the limits placed upon us by our synodical
commitments and the criteria employed in making judgments.

 The doctrine of the two kingdoms is applicable to the issue of
participation in "civic events."

 We cannot, and probably should not, seek to resolve tension that may arise
between bearing witness to Jesus' name in every opportunity, and remaining
faithful to Biblical doctrine.

 The importance of Matthew 18 in our synodical life.

Problems or issues that face us

 Lack of commonly understood definitions of key terms used among us (e.g.,
"unionism," "syncretism," "worship service," "civic events," "public

 The propriety and role of prayer in the public realm, especially where
non-Christians are present (prayer as witness? prayer an act of church

 What constitutes a faithful Christian witness at a "civic event"?

 How do we avoid the two extremes of legalistic rigidity and an "exception
becomes the rule" mentality and way of operating?

 The relationship between doctrine and practice (e.g., does lack of unity
in practice stem principally from lack of unity in doctrine?).

 The nature and extent of public Christian witness in the current
pluralistic and relativistic context.

 The legitimacy and/or usefulness of the suggested distinction between
"civic events" and  "religious civic events" (an ambivalence seemed to exist
among participants regarding this proposed distinction).

 Disagreement on general approach to participation in "civic events":  some
say "when in doubt, don't," while others say "sin on the side of boldness."

 Guarding against sectarianism and separatism as well as unionism and

Factors for judging "cases of discretion"

 Pastors and LCMS members should be open to opportunities to proclaim the
Gospel in the public square, boldly and without fear.

 When considering the appropriateness of participation, determine: the
nature and purpose of the event, who will participate, the intent of those
who have planned it, who is in charge of the event, what each participant is
being asked to do.

 The content of what is being said.

 Sensitivity to perceptions regarding what is said and done by pastors in
the public realm.

 Sensitivity to the matter of offense: offense to fellow members of the
Synod, as well as offense given to others.

Ethical concerns

 Lack of trust among pastors.

 A deep and serious concern about relationships between and among the
members of the Synod.

 Charity, not charges against the brother, is needed in our midst.

 Charity requires face-to-face and ongoing conversations.

 Charity necessitates accountability, treating each other with respect,
speaking the truth, admonishing erring brothers, receiving counsel
gracefully, putting the best construction on circumstances.

 Charity ought not to become a pretense for wrongdoing.

 Being crippled by fear (persecution, attacks, public criticism, conflict).


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