A friend of mine in the ELS let me know a few weeks ago about a conference which deserves attention. It is called the Emmaus Conference. On May 5-6th this year in Tacoma, Washington the Presidents of the three major confessional Lutheran Synods (LCMS, WELS, and ELS) will be either lecturing (WELS) or reacting (LCMS, ELS).
You can view their website here.
It has been a number of years since these kind of things have been able to happen, but it is good to see the heads of these church bodies at least in the same room. One of the things that was very valuable in the old days was the ability of one of the church bodies in the Synodical Conference to rebuke another. The outside rebuke had greater weight than a lot of inside rebuke.
Only after the breakup of the Synodical Conference did special interest groups from within the LCMS begin to be the only voice for certain issues. Their effectiveness is oftentimes related more to politics than to rebuke. Before that, an entire Synod could call another to repentance over an issue of doctrine or the practices which flow out of it.
Each side of this has issues with the other: LCMS will go after Church/Ministry of WELS and ELS; WELS and ELS will go after LCMS on a number of things (fellowship, women’s roles, scouting, military chaplaincy) and so forth [For a good summary of WELS issues with LCMS see John Brug’s book “WELS and other Lutherans, second edition”]. I will say that it would be an interesting future if each body gets serious about doctrinal discussion, especially since most of the pastors and many of the laity involved have never experienced the gift of the Synodical Conference. The value of having so many other Lutherans calling others to repentance would be very good. More than that, it is nice to see our Synod represented in the same conference with WELS and ELS instead of ELCA (or LCMC and NALC for that matter).
So this conference could be a good step along the way of working toward a greater confessional Lutheran association, or maybe not.
I would invite anyone who attends the conference in May to let me know about it at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Of course, if the matter was only as easy as removing a state or two we could manage something, bringing these Synods together again is up to the Lord.
No offense was intended to the residents of Illinois or Iowa, nor the congregations of the
Northern Illinois, Central Illinois, and Southern Illinois, Iowa East, and Iowa West Districts in the titling of this article.