Leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) met Nov. 29–Dec. 1 to continue the informal discussions that began in 2012. Once again, the discussions were beneficial, both for sharing information and for discussing doctrine.
One session was spent talking about the amazing opportunities that face confessional Lutherans around the world. The LCMS, for example, will be pursuing fellowship talks with a huge Lutheran church in Madagascar. WELS is interacting with churches in Vietnam and Ethiopia. All three synods are in contact with different Lutheran groups in Kenya and in India. It was good to compare notes about our various international contacts.
Time was spent discussing “cooperation in externals.” This term refers to activities that are carried out jointly with others outside of church fellowship—activities that do not involve the means of grace or give the impression of unity in faith. There was a good amount of agreement on the principles involved here, although participants didn’t discuss current or past applications in depth.
Also discussed were the roles of men and women in God’s world and in the church. For decades, differences between the LCMS and ELS/WELS have been recognized on this issue, and those differences showed themselves in our discussions. However, it was valuable to hear firsthand what is taught in our various synods, and that large areas of agreement were evident on issues such as the existence of an order of creation and on women’s ordination.
Plans were made to continue another round of informal discussions next year. Though no one imagines that there is an easy or quick path to church fellowship, these meetings have served a useful purpose in learning about each other’s ministries and in clarifying our doctrinal positions.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder
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