I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. I Corinthians 1:10 (ESV)
For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. I Corinthians 11:18-19 (ESV)
When you compare the two sections of God’s Word above, it almost sounds as if the Apostle Paul is trying to have it both ways, or is making a contradictory statement. Such is the paradox of being Lutheran. It is clear that God deplores division in His church. It is also clear that in a fallen world, God will use the divisions among us so that the truth of His Word can be recognized.
Sadly, there are many divisions of doctrine and practice among us in the LCMS. In the ACELC we have tried to fraternally point out these divisions, give evidence that they do in fact exist, and work to bring about true unity under God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. Our work continues in all of these areas, and we pray for God’s continual blessing. We are also well aware that in pointing out the divisions that exist, some will accuse us of causing division. Often the messenger is blamed when the message is one we would rather not hear.
While our work continues, the question often arises, “What is a pastor to do?” “When my members travel or move to a new location, how can I care for them so that they are fed by God’s Word in its truth and purity (First Petition, Lord’s Prayer).” “When visitors ask to receive Holy Communion at the altar where Christ has called me to serve, do I examine them all or just a select few (I Corinthians 4:1-2)?” These are all matters of what I like to call “High Pastoral Care.”
At our most recent ACELC Conference, the member congregations of the ACELC unanimously passed two resolutions intended to give guidance and support in the name of “High Pastoral Care” and in light of the divisions that exist in our beloved synod. We offer them to the church at large for discussion and consideration.
Rev. Clint K. Poppe
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
Link to Resolutions 14-01 & 14-02