From the Worldwide Faith News archives

LCMS Praesidium Suggests Cooperative Ministry with ELCA Continues

Date Fri, 30 Apr 2004 10:47:17 -0500


April 30, 2004

LCMS Praesidium Suggests Cooperative Ministry with ELCA Continues

     ST. LOUIS (ELCA) -- The Praesidium of the Lutheran Church-
Missouri Synod (LCMS) is recommending to this year's LCMS
convention that current LCMS working relationships with the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) be continued.
     At the same time, the Praesidium -- the Synod's president
and five vice presidents -- expressed concern over the ELCA's
ecumenical agreements and its current deliberations regarding
possible blessings of same-gender relationships and the
possibility of ordaining people who are gay or lesbian in
committed homosexual relationships.
     The Praesidium made its comments in a report to this year's
triennial Synod convention which will meet in July.  The report
responded to a 2001 convention resolution and is included in the
"Convention Workbook," which will be mailed next week to
convention delegates, pastors, church workers and others.
     The 2001 convention asked the Praesidium to evaluate
"current cooperative pastoral working arrangements with the ELCA"
and provide a report and recommendations to the 2004 convention.
The resolution that made the request noted in its single
"whereas" that the ELCA has entered into "full communion"
relationships with Reformed church bodies, the Episcopal Church
and the Moravian Church.
     Much of the Praesidium's report focused on the military
chaplaincy, the area of inter-Lutheran cooperation that it cites
as "the most difficult aspect of our task of evaluation."  The
two church bodies have agreed that their respective chaplains
will provide Word and Sacrament ministry to all Lutheran military
     "On the one hand, the Praesidium recognizes and acknowledges
the exceptional pastoral commitment of our military chaplains,
often in extreme and dangerous situations," said the report.  "On
the other hand, the Praesidium recognizes a divergence of opinion
among the chaplains of the LCMS concerning the appropriateness
and usefulness of continuing the present working arrangements
with the ELCA."
     "At the same time, the Praesidium affirms the desirability
that our Lutheran service members receive spiritual care from
Lutheran chaplains whenever possible, and we rejoice in the
blessings which such pastoral care has given our service members
in the past," it said.
     Although recommending that current arrangements for the
military chaplaincy "be continued at this time," the report said
that "the LCMS has real and significant reason to be concerned
about the ability of the ELCA to proclaim the Christian faith
with Lutheran clarity."  It cites as a basis the ELCA's
ecumenical agreements and its deliberations over the possible
blessings of same-gender relationships and the possibility of
ordaining people who are gay or lesbian in committed homosexual
     The Praesidium recommended that it "continue to assess
pastoral working relationships with the ELCA during the next
triennium" and report to the 2007 convention "whether at that
time these arrangements merit continuance or whether developments
within the ELCA justify other action."
     Copies of the Praesidium's report were distributed and
discussed when the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation met April 14
in St. Louis.  The committee has six members each from the ELCA
and LCMS, including the Rev. Marks S. Hanson, ELCA presiding
bishop, and the Rev. Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS president.
     Hanson expressed gratitude for the report's recommendations
and for being among those invited to provide input as the
Praesidium considered the working relationship of the two church
bodies.  He expressed concern, however, over wording in the
report that refers to consequences for Lutheran cooperative work
"should the mind of the ELCA prove to be contrary to the mind of
the Holy Spirit" regarding issues of human sexuality.
     "That kind of language is difficult to absorb," Hanson said.
     Kieschnick replied that the Praesidium had "significant
conversation about that statement," indicating that it was not of
one mind on that wording.  He said that the report itself also
was not adopted unanimously.
     As for what action the convention might take on inter-
Lutheran cooperation, The Rev. Raymond L. Hartwig, LCMS
secretary, told the meeting that "overtures" -- proposed
resolutions -- were received "on both sides of this issue."  He
said that the convention Floor Committee on Theology and Church
Relations will have to decide how to respond to those overtures
as it prepares resolutions for convention consideration.

* The Rev. David L. Mahsman is director for the News and
Information Services of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,
St. Louis.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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