ACELC — What About the “Koinonia Project?

Here is the email that the ACELC sent out two days ago:


“Every day that error is tolerated without challenge, the roots of that error deepen!”

These words, spoken recently by a fellow pastor, reminded me of the Pastors’ Conference I had just attended in which First Vice-President Herb Mueller addressed us regarding progress on the “Koinonia Project.” In Draft 10 of the Summary of the “Koinonia Project” we find the following words in bold type:

In the “Koinonia Project” several representative groups will meet together to work on a basis for agreement that includes the following:

  • A clear statement of the controversy – what is the real point at issue?
  • A clear statements of what we affirm together;
  • A clear statements of what we reject; and then,
  • An agreement of what we will therefore DO together.

This material then needs to be studied and worked on together throughout the Synod so that the Word of God has its way with us in our life together, our witness to Christ and our service for the world.

A tip of the hat is due the “Koinonia Project” for this confessional Formula-of-Concord-like approach to the deeply rooted errors that are tolerated among us and grow deeper by the day. What disturbs me, however, is not the confessional Formula-of-Concord-like strategy, but the naivete of those who have been given (according to the Constitution and Bylaws) the charge to be “ecclesiastical supervisors” in the Synod. Consider the following …

The ACELC, speaking the truth in love, has already done the bulk of this work in the documentation we have presented to the Synod, beginning with ten areas of controversy in the LCMS set forth in our July 15, 2010, “Fraternal Admonition” letter to the Synod. Following shortly thereafter the ACELC published an “Evidence of Error” document for each of the ten areas of controversy, and, in addition, we have filed three official dissent documents with the CTCR for those areas where the Synod has officially adopted false doctrine. The ACELC has also forwarded a full set of our documentation to the Praesidium, appealing to them “to deal with these errors in an evangelical manner.” And the ACELC continues to bring about genuine discussion and debate regarding the issues that are dividing our Synod in our annual conferences and website resources.

What’s my point? Simply this … leaders (i.e. those Synod has elected to serve in what the Bylaws call “ecclesiastical supervisor” positions) lead on the basis of, and in the order of, Scripture, Confessions, Constitution, and Bylaws as the Synod has previously established. When one compares the work done by the ACELC with Scripture, Confessions, Constitution, and Bylaws in each of the ten areas of controversy, the conclusion is manifest. The ACELC has already (in the above referenced documents) set before the Synod a clear statement of the controversy, including clear statements of what we affirm together and clear statements of what we reject. Put all this documentation together with the fact that all members of Synod (when they became members of Synod) have already sworn to an agreement of what we will therefore DO together … and it leaves us with an elephant in the room no one in Synod seems willing to deal with!

To borrow a line from Pastor Todd Wilken’s recent Issues, Etc. Journal article, “Behind the Music The REAL Worship War,” … What does this confess?

What does this confess … when in each of the ten areas of controversy the ACELC has already set forth: Synod’s original position; at least three supporting witnesses for that position that always include Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions; actual evidence of errors that are advocated and/or practiced today in the Synod with impunity; and the ACELC response to these errors in light of the witnesses and the Synod’s current indifference to these errors? What does this confess … when Synod’s leaders do not or will not acknowledge the evidence and deal subsequently with said evidence in accord with the accountability that is bound to their office? What does this confess … when we as Synod (or Districts) continue to elect (or re-elect) leaders who simply do not acknowledge the elephant in the room, or refuse to deal with it?

This is what it conjures up in my mind: Adam’s failure to be pastor to Eve; Aaron’s debacle as high-priest to God’s people when Moses was on the mountain; Eli’s negligence as priest who honored his two sons more than he honored the Lord; Judas Iscariot’s rejection of Jesus’ words, opting instead to betray Him for 30 pieces of silver; and Peter’s triple denial of even knowing Jesus on the night of His betrayal.

But thanks be to God, … none of this persuades me to cease confessing the Father’s faithfulness in sending His only begotten Son to reconcile the world to Himself … none of this persuades me to abandon the confession of the Son’s faithfulness in carrying out the will of the Father even unto death at Calvary … none of this persuades me to renounce the Holy Spirit’s faithfulness in delivering the message of reconciliation in Jesus Christ through faithful administration of Word and Sacraments … none of this dissuades me (or the 21 congregations who have joined the ACELC) from continuing to proclaim Jesus Christ crucified and resurrected for the forgiveness of sins using the historic liturgies of the Church even while we call the Synod to repent and return to its historic teachings and practices.

But what pray tell are we to conclude regarding those who, although elected to positions of “ecclesiastical supervisor,” simply refuse to acknowledge the elephant in the room or refuse to deal with it? Remember … “Every day that error is tolerated without challenge, the roots of that error deepen!”

Pastor Bruce G. Ley
Documents Chairman, ACELC

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


ACELC — What About the “Koinonia Project? — 9 Comments

  1. To the men involved in the ACELC, thank you for what you do! We as clergy and laity in the LCMS need your group and the work you do.

    Synodical leadership is not doing this important work and Koininia is moving at the pace of a turtle.

  2. These pastors that say they are the ACLC, or however they say it, are put out that Synodical leadership has not done what they want, precisely as they want it, when they want, in a manner that would satisfy their demands.

    Now Reverand Ley puts out a “public pout”

    Alrighty then…

    Happy New Year!

  3. @Hank Bender #3
    Happy New Year!

    It’s ACELC, “Mr Bender”.
    I’m not a member but they have summed up the deviations from Lutheran doctrine and Missouri synod policy. “Koinonia” would be underway, if it had started there.

    The question is, “Why does anyone who is ordained and (supposedly) informed by Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions have to be told what they say?”
    Why are so many looking in the ditches for what is only on the Way? [And encouraging others to make the same futile search?]

    We should indeed pray that the new year will be a better one!

  4. “What About the “Koinonia Project?”

    Recently there were some more updates on a Koinonia meeting which took place at the LCMS Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne, IN. The topic for the discussion focused on “The Relationship between the Gospel and the Scriptures.”

    One of the Koinonia participants noted, “Our discussion on the Gospel and Scripture was a significant and timely topic.” Later the participant enthused, “We are blessed by our common commitment to biblical authority and theological, confessional integrity.”

    Another Koinonia participant stated, “As mainline Christendom continues to fade all around us, this is no time for retreat, but a moment for clarity on biblical teaching and energetic faithfulness to the church’s missionary work. It’s wonderful to spend time with leaders who share that goal.”

    Even President Harrison expressed, “I am extremely pleased and pleasantly surprised by the high degree of agreement we have on the Word of God.”

    Plans call for a schedule of two meetings per year through to mid-2014.” So it looks like that 85% target is in easy reach.

    Oh, wait… This wasn’t a Koinonia meeting. It was an ecumenical meeting between top-ranking officials of the LCMS and the pastrix-laden Lufauxran NALC.

  5. Can a Lutheran father institute a Koinonia Project policy when leading his family? Can he simply discuss with his children’s how their behavior is apposed to the will of God without disciplining them trusting the Word of God to do its job, or is he required to carry out discipline?

    Perhaps these question are different than those faced by the LCMS because LCMS officials aren’t spiritual fathers in the same way our pastors are. I don’t know. Perhaps the Missouri Synod is a grand illusion. Maybe each church is really on its own with little more than some family, a seminary, health and retirement plan in common with some other individual churches.

  6. Here is what 1VP Herb Mueller had to say about the Koinonia Project last October [text broken into paragraphs for easier reading]:

    There is always a delicate balance between the task of ecclesiastical supervision of doctrine and life (a task given to the district presidents under the supervision of the president) and the need for “safe places” for theological discussion. We note that there has always been a distinction between honest theological discussion under the Word of God in which various opinions may be expressed and publicly teaching contrary to the Word of God and the position of the Synod. Ecclesiastical supervision in general has to do with the latter, not the former.

    Actually, we have heard folks on both ends of the spectrum in Synod express fears about the Koinonia Project. On the one hand, there are those who believe the Synod has been too lenient with those objecting to its teaching and therefore are tempted to conclude that the Koinonia Project will “take too long” and will only become a delaying tactic to “avoid facing the inevitable.” Others say they are afraid the Koinonia Project is something of a ruse to cover up a plan to “purge” the Synod of “undesireables” like them.

    We note that the normal processes among us of both ecclesiastical supervision and doctrinal dissent according to the bylaws continue as they do now, separate from the Koinonia Project. However, the Koinonia Project is neither a delaying tactic nor a purge but it must become, we pray, an honest Spirit-guided effort over time to do what it takes to engage one another in theological listening and the discussions necessary to work towards unity, concord and harmony.

    The Concept Paper describes this in greater detail, but emphasizes the following: Koinonia Project “study groups must be developed as ‘safe places’ for honest theological conversation. While district presidents are always engaged in the ecclesiastical supervision of the doctrine and life of the members of the Synod, people need to be able to participate in the conversations of the ‘Koinonia’ groups without fear of retaliation. Immediate accusations of false teaching within a group, for instance, will quickly lead to the breakdown of the group. At the same time, while remaining ‘safe’ for all involved, groups will want to move toward the ultimate goal of confessing what God’s Word calls us to teach and to do together.”

    The Koinonia Advisory Group includes Pastor Wally Arp, St. Luke’s, Oveido, FL; Pastor Allan Buss, Immanuel, Belvedere, IL; President Terry Forke, Montana District; Pastor Wayne Graumann, Salem, Tomball, TX; President Dale Sattgast, South Dakota District; Pastor Harold Senkbeil, New Berlin, WI; President Anthony Steinbronn, New Jersey District.

  7. Hank Bender :These pastors that say they are the ACLC, or however they say it, are put out that Synodical leadership has not done what they want, precisely as they want it, when they want, in a manner that would satisfy their demands.
    Now Reverand Ley puts out a “public pout”
    Alrighty then…
    Happy New Year!

    The ACELC are not pastors, Mr. Bender. Only congregations can be actual members; they send pastoral and lay delegates to the ACELC conferences. I’m an associate member of the ACELC and I am not a pastor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.