Selective Fellowship

If you grew up in the 40s to the early 70s, Selective Service, though I don’t think it was always called that, was the big bugaboo. Males 18 and up had to register to serve in the armed forces. It was a big deal. It is not likely that there would have been the prolonged protests against the Vietnam “conflict” if there had not been a draft in place. Selective Service was – and with the pending registering of women should be again – a bugaboo in the secular world. Selective Fellowship is among theologians.

Since September 2010, Trinity has not communed all members of the LCMS. We could have drawn the line at 5 separate places: open Communion, praying with pagans, the women serving in the divine service and/or leadership, lay people having the right to judge their pastors. In practice, because I literally only have minutes to examine people, I only ask about open Communion. I tell them if you believe the Lord’s Table should be for all Lutherans, all baptized Christians, all people who believe what we believe about Communion, you believe in open Communion and our altar is not your altar. If you want to know more you can go to our web page, Pastor’s Blog, and the October 1, 2012 blog “Why Don’t We Commune Those who Believe in Open Communion.”

Our practice is called Selective Fellowship and is denounced by sincere confessional Lutherans and every LCMS bureaucrat. I, however, refuse to accept their scorn. First, it is true that fellowship is between altars not people. However, the Missouri Synod doesn’t have an altar. There is no single Lutheran Church Missouri Synod altar. O the bruhaha that exploded when the Synod put a baptismal font in the chapel at synodical HQ. So emphatic are we that the Synod itself doesn’t have an altar that “local” congregations who do have altars must sponsor any Communion service at a convention, conference, or gathering.

Congregations banded together to form the LCMS and then agreed among themselves the boundaries of our fellowship. These boundaries are stipulated in the Synodical constitution Article VI Conditions of Membership. Those congregations practicing open Communion, allowing layman to preach, praying with pagans, or using impure “hymnbooks” are outside those boundaries. Yet, if we don’t commune them we are practicing Selective Fellowship rather than faithfully celebrating the Lord’s Supper.

The Synod’s real practice is actually worse than communing someone just because they have the initials LCMS. In between conventions, the president of the LCMS can declare were in fellowship by fiat. So a man who has no altar or pulpit, decides who pastors and congregations with altars are in altar and pulpit fellowship with! You millennials don’t even need to satirize this. It’s self-satirizing! Go ahead and make the argument that since Pastor Harrison is a part time assistant pastor somewhere he does have an altar. Bully for him! Let him make decisions for his altar not mine or yours. And remember there is no ours.

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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