“Koinonia Project” – Brief Report – October 2012

November 5th, 2012 Post by

Found on WMLTblog:

 

Purpose:   The “Koinonia Project” is a long term initiative of the Office of the President of the Synod developing spiritual and theological solutions under the Word of God for some of our long term spiritual and theological issues in the Synod. The project fosters theological study and discussion groups at many levels designed to bring together capable and respected people to study God’s Word and the Confessions of our church so that, by God’s grace, we come to clear agreement on 1) the points at issue, 1 2) what we confess together, 3) what we reject and 4) what we will therefore do together, on the basis of Scripture and our Confessions. This effort to do so we have chosen to call “The Koinonia Project” because we pray God will build and strengthen our unity in the Word of God and our fellowship, our “koinonia” together.

During the present triennium, we have been developing a number of pilot projects as outlined below. Actually, the “Koinonia Project” will become, we pray, an opportunity for a cultural shift among us, a positive change in our shared expectations.

A Concept Paper for the project is available on the Synod’s website, www.lcms.org/page.aspx?pid=1041. The effort arises from the work of the “Harmony Task Force” appointed in response to 2007 Synod Resolution 4-01A and from a paper produced by President Matthew Harrison in 2009 entitled “It’s Time.” The “concept paper” has been reviewed a number of times by the Synod Praesidium, by the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), by the Council of Presidents and by an “advisory group” of pastors and district presidents.  A final draft will be put up on the website soon.

Advisory Group:  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 (chosen while he was a district executive). This group has met several times by phone with First Vice President Herbert Mueller to discuss drafts of the concept paper and communicating the concepts more broadly. More evaluation and expansion are needed.

We Are in a “Pilot Phase”:  At present we are trying several different approaches to see what works best. Pilot Projects are active in several districts – Nebraska, Northern Illinois and South Wisconsin. The Council of Presidents and the CTCR are helping with the concept and evaluations. Several circuits in various districts are also developing as “Koinonia Project Theological Study Groups,” circuits in Texas, Ohio and Kansas. We have been speaking in several other districts – Northwest, Wyoming, Rocky Mountain, Minnesota South and are looking to develop groups in those areas. We are working with local district leadership to design what will be most helpful in each context. In so doing, we want to learn as much as we can with these pilot projects.

What About the Future?  We are just getting started. Just barely. This is a long term effort. Our theological faculties are being drawn into the process. The Office of the President is involved in Koinonia-like study projects. The Advisory Group will be expanded. Much work needs to be done to take this to the next level. More publicity within the Synod. Receive reports on how the various pilot efforts are doing. Develop a website that can be regularly updated with information about the “Koinonia Project.” Develop more resources, particularly Bible Studies. Develop cross-district efforts. Develop ways to share results of studies across the Synod, ways to collate and bring together these results. Involve colleges and seminaries more deeply. A new draft of the concept paper will be published soon. How will the work of local groups be expanded nationally, or at least more broadly? Watch this space for future information. Keep it in your prayers!

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President, LCMS






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  1. Rev. Dave Likeness
    November 5th, 2012 at 18:32 | #1

    It seems logical to have some of the systematic and
    exegetical seminary professors from Ft. Wayne and
    St. Louis in important roles as soon as possible.
    We need to have their expertise as we make the
    Koinonia Project grounded in the Holy Scriptures
    and the Lutheran Confessions.

  2. Carl Vehse
    November 5th, 2012 at 20:20 | #2

    The Koinonia Project Advisory Group discussions might have to have some DRP-qualified “reconcilers” including in the mix.

    The first comment on the WMLTblog raises an interesting point, especially since the poster, Carol Schmidt, has a major agenda to push:

    “Will the ordination of women be included in the Koinonia Project as a topic of study? Will women and men who are favorable or open to the possibility of ordaining women be included in discussions, free to speak their thoughts on the subject without threat of job loss, excommunication, or charges of heresy? The people and leadership of the LCMS are constantly in my prayers. God’s peace be with you and best wishes to you all.”

    Also of interest is the response by First Vice-President Herb Mueller:

    Thank you for your prayers. 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.”

    Boiling the response down suggests an answer, “Yes, if not no.”

  3. Michael
    November 5th, 2012 at 20:46 | #3

    Why don’t these people go join the ELCA or one of the breakaway groups? You can study it all you want. They will not be happy because the answer is no. Some in LCMS are having the first ever conference on ordaining women.

  4. November 6th, 2012 at 05:59 | #4

    Carl Vehse :While district presidents are always engaged in the ecclesiastical supervision of the doctrine and life of the members of the Synod…

  5. November 6th, 2012 at 06:24 | #5

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #4
    In fairness to “Carl,” he was quoting a synodical official. (In fairness to the official, he was trying too hard to find a best construction…)

  6. November 6th, 2012 at 11:55 | #6

    Carl Vehse :
    The Koinonia Project Advisory Group discussions might have to have some DRP-qualified “reconcilers” including in the mix.
    The first comment on the WMLTblog raises an interesting point, especially since the poster, Carol Schmidt, has a major agenda to push:

    What did he say there in response. While he didn’t says yes Herb Mueller didn’t seem to me to say “No.” It seems he’s hesitant to say that a given issue is off limits. He would only hestiate, I would think, if feared taking a firm stand on one side or the other of the issue.

  7. Carl Vehse
    November 6th, 2012 at 12:15 | #7

    Perhaps prospective members have to pass this test successfully before they are part of a Koinonia Project group.

  8. Jan P
    November 6th, 2012 at 13:26 | #8

    bitznbitez :

    Carl Vehse :The Koinonia Project Advisory Group discussions might have to have some DRP-qualified “reconcilers” including in the mix.The first comment on the WMLTblog raises an interesting point, especially since the poster, Carol Schmidt, has a major agenda to push:

    What did he say there in response. While he didn’t says yes Herb Mueller didn’t seem to me to say “No.” It seems he’s hesitant to say that a given issue is off limits. He would only hestiate, I would think, if feared taking a firm stand on one side or the other of the issue.

    I was baptised and confirmed as a member of a WELS congregation many years ago and never got into the habit of voting as a member of my LCMS congregation. After reading Ms. Schmidt’s essay, I will certainly rethink this position. It would be wrong if women with ideas such as hers were the only ones voting…

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