Studies in Progress to form a Synod

That’s what the headline of the press release should have been from the latest meeting of the ACELC Steering Committee and the LCMS.  But below is what it was.  I kept the ! and didn’t change it to 1 because this comes from the meeting like from the Medes and the Persians.  You’re not allowed to change anything, so I didn’t.  (I suspect it comes this way from the Synod side not the ACELC side.)

On Friday, November 12, 2010, in a meeting at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Kansas City, Missouri, representatives of the Steering Committee of the ACELC, !st Vice-President. Herb Mueller, and District Presidents Russ Sommerfeld and Ray Mirly agreed that there is urgency for a comprehensive study of doctrinal and practical issues within the LCMS. We therefore strongly encourage the Council of Presidents to recommend to President Harrison and 1st Vice-President Mueller to consider the incorporation into a Koinonia project the topics addressed by the “Ten Concerns” of the ACELC. We further suggest that a high priority be given to develop in-depth Bible/Confessional studies for laity and for clergy that lead to a Synod-wide study of Worship and Holy Communion. We ask that all clergy and their congregations commit themselves to participate in these studies. It is further encouraged that these studies will be expanded to be conducted at a Circuit Forum level to engage clergy and laity in this effort.”

This would be an admirable step, a sign of hope, of progress, of better things to come if we were talking about people gathering to see if they could form a synod.  But as it comes from a 150 plus year-old-synod, it’s a pity, a shame, yea maybe even a travesty.

We already have accepted, agreed upon, resolved, dedicated ourselves, pledged ourselves, to unity in worship and closed Communion.  By agreeing to talk and study issues that are already settled among us we are admitting they are not settled.  We are saying that those engaged in jamming for Jesus and opening their altars to anyone who wishes to come have legitimate points that need to be considered.  Liturgical worship isn’t for everyone; Communion is.

Or am I wrong here?  Are those practicing open Communion going to be called to repentance?  Will they be called back from their revival style worship services?  Or are we in the wrong here?  Romans 16:17 doesn’t justify closed Communion, and doing everything decently and in order (I Cor. 14:40) doesn’t argue for a divine service with form and order.  Or will the approach be that we really have no previous agreed upon, resolved, position about worship and Communion?  Did you notice that no mention of praying with pagans or women in the church was made?  Thankfully all of the LCMS believes and practices the same way on these two issues!

These studies can only be approached one of three ways.  The confessional side is wrong; the American side is wrong; both sides are wrong.  But I thought we had already decided these things already.  Entering into a study of them is to say we’re not sure any longer.  And if we are sure, where’s the middle ground between open and closed Communion, between bands in the chancel and liturgical worship?

A pastor who was involved in the 70’s split told me that the conservative liberal confabs always went the same way.  After the first meeting, the liberals said it was great that we were finally talking.  After the second meeting, the liberals said it was good that the conservatives were finally listening to the liberal position.  It was at the third meeting that the wheels fell off.  The discussions always broke down at the third step which was the conservatives accepting the liberal position as valid as their own.

It’s amazing to me that the ACELC which was formed to call for action from the LCMS should be convinced by the LCMS that what is needed is more talking.  Especially when in their own documentation they show this “let’s talk” approach has led to the erosion of our positions. You talk to form a faithful synod.  You discipline to keep a faithful synod.  You walk from a synod that will not discipline.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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2 Responses to Studies in Progress to form a Synod

  1. Bart Goddard says:

    Well, there’s “study” and then there’s “study.” If the ACELC is calling for Synod to produce materials (maybe just a list of existing documents) which should be studied at circuit meetings and adult Bible class, with the goal of educating pastors and the laity on correct communion and worship practices, then great.

    If they hadn’t used the word “koinonia”, then I would have said that you had jumped the gun. But it appears that, even though light should have nothing to do with darkness, their intent is to treat the heretics as equals. It’s not surprising when the lost sheep want to have a debate about where the good pastures are, but it’s bizarre that the shepherds would take the proposal seriously.

  2. Jim Craig says:

    I find it amazing that I am now in the position of counseling patience with the ACELC folks. In previous congregations I have been to far right of most of the laity and the clergy. If one reads communications between the ACELC folks, mostly pastors, there is a great deal of skepticism about the possibility of a sea change taking place in the LCMS. This current effort was initiated a year before Harrison’s election and its emergence on the scene at convention time was purely a coincidence. With Harrison’s election, my sense is that the feeling is we need to cut him some slack and see where this Koinonia Project goes. I’ve corresponded with a few of the ACELC pastors in the recent past and am convinced of their determination to highlight the errors and try one last time to urge repentance and a return to orthodoxy. Consequently, I would urge a little more patience to see how this all plays out. With the upcoming constituting conference in March of next year, we should see how officialdom of the LCMS responds to these admonitions. In fact, my view is that should the ACELC’s concerns be ultimately rebuffed, as some expect, the infrastructure will already be in place for formation of a new confessional body, no? Call me pollyannish but lets hold our fire for awhile yet to see how this all plays out.

    Jim Craig

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