On Nov. 28-30, representatives from the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) met in Jacksonville, Fla., for the sixth annual meeting for informal discussions. The main topics covered were the Doctrine of the Call and a comparative review of the recently published catechisms by WELS and the LCMS. The last version of the catechism for the ELS (2001) also was used in discussing the new editions of the explanations to the Small Catechism. In this 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation we especially treasure the work of Dr. Martin Luther in composing his Small and Large Catechisms of 1529.
The three synod presidents provided updates on the respective work of their church bodies. Challenges and blessings also were noted in respect to pastoral training, the filling of congregational vacancies, and the relationships with international churches. The LCMS is part of the ILC (International Lutheran Conference), while the ELS and WELS are members of the CELC (Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference).
None of the participants at these informal meetings anticipate a restoration of church fellowship between ELS/WELS and the LCMS in the near future. Yet, the sessions themselves were once again helpful as areas of agreement, as well as specific differences, were addressed in a cordial but candid manner. The representatives of the three synods have decided to gather once again in the fall of 2018.
Also in November, representatives of WELS and the ELS met with counterparts from the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC). The CLC was formed in the 1950s when a number of congregations left the Wisconsin Synod because they believed that the synod was not acting quickly enough to break fellowship with the Missouri Synod. The meeting was a continuation of formal doctrinal discussions intended to determine if fellowship between the synods can be restored.
In 2015 the group had composed a document entitled “A Joint Statement on the Termination of Fellowship.” Agreement on this joint statement is seen as a necessary first step in the doctrinal discussions. The ELS convention approved the statement in 2016; the WELS convention approved it last summer. The CLC convention discussed it and recommended further study by its pastoral conferences. The CLC will consider the statement again at its next convention.
Even if the Joint Statement is adopted by all three synods, other issues remain to be more fully discussed and resolved before fellowship can be reestablished. We pray for God’s blessings on these efforts to establish fellowship based on a full agreement in doctrine.
Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder