In Contrast to President Kieschnick, Matt Harrison Says that the LCMS Cannot Maintain the Status Quo with the ELCA, by Pr. Rossow

As I mentioned in the last post, I sent an e-mail to [email protected] to ask why Harrison was not at these meetings and if he had an opinion on these matters and copied the office of Human Care. Here is the response I got from the office of Human Care.

Dear Pastor Rossow:


Thank you for writing to LCMS World Relief and Human Care regarding the important matter of inter-Lutheran cooperation. We just received the ELCA press release and the statements of President Kieschnick and other LCMS officials within the past twenty-four hours ourselves.


According to the Synod Bylaws ( f & g) the Board for Human Care Ministries is tasked with sponsoring and participating ³in world relief activities for the alleviation of human suffering, furthered through cooperation with Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, Lutheran Services of America ² and maintaining ³liaison with the appropriate units of other church bodies, with approved inter-Lutheran agencies. ²


While the Board for Human Care Ministries is tasked with participating with these organizations and with maintaining liaison with them, we do not have the authority to unilaterally make such a decision for the LCMS.


Neither Rev. Matthew Harrison nor the Board for Human Care Ministries was consulted on this matter or asked to attend the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation (CLC) held on September 28 – 29. We do not believe the status quo can be maintained in light of the ELCA’s anti-scriptural and ungodly acceptance of practicing homosexual clergy. Please direct further questions regarding the LCMS’ continued participation and cooperation with the ELCA on matters of Human Care Efforts to President Kieschnick’s office.


Thank you and the Lord ¹s Blessings upon you,


Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D.

Executive Pastoral Assistant

LCMS World Relief and Human Care

1333 S. Kirkwood Rd




About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


In Contrast to President Kieschnick, Matt Harrison Says that the LCMS Cannot Maintain the Status Quo with the ELCA, by Pr. Rossow — 43 Comments

  1. Okay, so Pastor Hendrickson does parodies, I have a dancing background, so now for something completely different:

    The Synod Paper Shuffle:
    Step, step, step to da left & say; We dunno
    Step, step, step to da left & say; pass da buck
    Step, step, step to da left & say; we don’t change
    Slide…slide…& then now shout; ASK KREZ…DA PREZ.
    And that is how we do the Synod Paper Shuffle.

    Seriously though, did we think this response would be any different? I pray Pastor Harrison steps down, not because he can do nothing, but because there is nothing else left TO DO.

  2. Dutch, Al Collver is a good guy. I’m sure he said only what he could say under the circumstances.

  3. The “circumstances” are the issue. Ya can’t say a church has become heretical & still shake hands & pass the $$$ at the same time.

  4. His last paragraph is rather clear, though, regarding what’s going on in the ELCA & that things must change and referring people to the people who must change! Namely, well, President Kieschnick et al.

  5. Why does your headline say Rev. Matt Harrison says cannot maintain the status quo? He didn’t say that. The “we” in Rev. Collver’s response is ambiguous.

  6. elnathan…,

    Good question. I just I guess took it that way. Maybe that is not the case.


  7. Al is correct in that their task is to work with these organizations and that they cannot make a decision to sever these ties.

    That being said, there is a convention just around the corner, which means POWER TO THE PEOPLE and the delegates will have the opportunity to change the bylaws and elect new leadership.

    If you want the Board for Human Care Services to have the final say on who they cooperate with, then that will be the place to make those changes.

  8. With all the happenings with the economic situation…anyone see the selling off of the Billion assets of Stanford U. Oh well there goes the neighborhood..sounds like the lilac vatican eh?

  9. Because the request went to the official LCMS address, the official response from a official representative of an official LCMS organization, World Relief and Human Care, is not surprising in its paragraphical content:

    1. Restate the specific request issue,

    2. Include the official (boilerplate) LCMS related policies officially in effect,

    3. Provide a CYA paragraph to insure the Violet Vatican® can’t accuse WRHC officials of overstepping or misrepresenting their official authority or objectives,

    4. Make only factual statements regarding official actions, and keep statements of personal opinions or beliefs regarding possible future LCMS actions positive in implication, but vague in substance.

  10. Why does this web site continue to allow Richard Strickert [aka Carl Vehse] to indulge in slanderous rants? What purpose is this serving? How is this in any way helpful or constructive? Is this the kind of behavior that Lutheran laymen should be indulging in and why does BJS give Strickert a platform to spout his bile?

  11. Al and his boss, Matt Harrison, are not getting paid to opine about their theological stance or their personal feelings when they are responding to an email in an official capacity.

    They may or may not agree with the LCMS’ actions, but one will have to ask them as individuals, not as employees of the LCMS.

  12. Rena Valez, what evidence do you have for your accusations of “slanderous rants” and “bile” in my previous post? Please provide specific substantiation for your accusations, or else it would be reasonable to wonder what purpose you are serving with your post.

  13. I don’t think the response from Dr. Collver is ambiguous at all, and I would think his response represents the official position of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, especially since he used the word “we.” He states, “We do not believe the status quo can be maintained in light of the ELCA’s anti-scriptural and ungodly acceptance of practicing homosexual clergy.” To me, that’s a pretty strong statement that they don’t things should continue the way they have.

    President Kieschnick gave the impression at our District Convention (NOW) that we would have to take a very serious look at everything we do jointly with the ELCA. It sounded like he was taking a hard line. The statements made above seem much more conciliatory, which I think sets the wrong tone.

  14. Rena: A person should trust a guy going by “Carl Vehse” as much as a person should trust a guy going by “IggyAntiochus”.

    We are all just here to put in our two cents and discuss the topic at hand, whether we agree or disagree with others who comment here.

    Please state your areas of disagreement with “Carl Vehse” so they can be fleshed out and discussed.

  15. Have you read Mark 9:38-50 lately?

    I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on the LCMS ELCA relationship in light of this passage. I’d appreciate most particularly an explanation of how you understand Jesus’ response to the disciples.

    In Mark 9:38-50 a man, who was not one of the 12 apostles and who wasn’t even “Following them” was seen casting out daemons in Jesus name. Jesus friends told him that they tried to stop him from doing it.

    Jesus’ friends were expecting a great reward for their efforts. They were expecting Jesus to pat them each on the back and say, “That a boy, way to go stopping someone from misusing my name.” Instead of praising them Jesus told them to leave the man alone.

    Jesus spoke pretty clearly to John. So what do you think would he say back to his 21st century followers?

    thanks for your thoughts

  16. #16 John, an unlikely pastor,

    I’m not sure I see the connection.

    Jesus told His disciples not to stop the man from doing a great work in His name.

    Jesus did not tell His disciples to join with a man who was lying in His name and leading others to reject parts of God’s word.

  17. John,

    Question: what does it mean to do something “in the name of Jesus.” Remember, if you ask for anything “in the name of Jesus” you will recieve it. Is Jesus merely a vocable. The problem is that many people in the ELCA worship a different Jesus. It’s a first commandment issue.

    BTW, if you want to hear an interesting sermon on this text listen go on ItunesU search for concordia seminary, click on chapel sermons and look for the recent sermon on this text by Dr. Utech.

  18. Stub, Anonymous, et. al,

    Thanks for looking at issue this closely.

    I’d like to answer the question you asked, as plainly as possible, what does it mean to do something “in the name of Jesus?”

    As a believer, who claims Jesus’ blood and righteousness as his only merit in the universe, I believe that I am free, by God’s grace known to me through faith in Jesus, to serve and to invite others to serve in Jesus name. I pray that whatever I do both demonstrates love for God above all others and love for my neighbors as myself. In particular I pray that my congregation and family would reveal Jesus to the world as the scriptures reveal Jesus to us.

    Hard part is I am a sinner and my actions aren’t always God honoring and don’t always reveal love for my neighbors. Church history for 2000 years is rife with the evidence of the sins committed under the sign of the cross and in the “name of Jesus.”

    I do agree completely, stub, that the first commandment is at stake in our discussions of homosexuality; saddly both liberals and conservatives (regardless of denomination) getting caught on the first commandment in their arguments.

    When I read Romans 1:26-27 I read about homosexuality as a sin the demonstrates our rebellion against God. When I read Romans 1:1-32 I read about sin of all kinds as the core problem. For 2000 years our human inability to lay aside our sins and follow Jesus has been clear.

    Let us not make light of the sins involved in homosexual conduct or in the choice of people not to repent of that conduct; let us not make light either of over 20 other sins that prove our distance from God and the standards laid out in God’s law.

    All humans sin and our sin overwhelms us. Unless you can save yourself you need Jesus. Paul’s argument is a proof that we are fighting hard against God and God’s will revealed in the law. All our struggles to get away from sin on our own only lead us further in to the mess of sin. Jesus came to earth not because we are able to save ourselves. Jesus’ came because of our total need for a savior.

    My questions in response are,

    1) Do you believe that people who confess Jesus as Lord, and yet differ from you on major issues, including a particular sin and repentence of that sinful conduct, are not Christians?

    2) Do you believe that Jesus’ died for someone, even if they are wrong, and you vehemently disagree with them?

    Please detail the source of the standards you use for detemining the faithfulness of another human being to Jesus Christ.




  19. Interesting that the title states this is what Matt Harrison says. I find no comment from Rev. Harrison here and Rev. Collver, while he may be a “good guy” post #2, doesn’t seem to have authority to represent LCMS Human Care in any way. He makes some implication that this is the position of the ministry but I understand the board to be the authority in this. I can’t however find him on any lists of LCMSWRHC board members.

  20. John,

    To answer your question: that’s not my call. I’m not saying that there aren’t Christians outside of the LCMS. There are plenty of denominations that make a good public confession. The lips is what it’s about here. That’s the main thing I have to go on. Even so, to claim that there are not Christians in denominations that are in error is ridiculous. There are many simple people in various denominations that cling to Christ’s promises. There are also alot of people who are gonna have alot of stubble burnt away as they approach death. Earthly props will fall. Furthermore, God cleanses people from hidden faults (ps 19).

    However, I am bound to God’s self-revelation, which requires me to confess (to say the same thing as God says back to him and to say the same with the Church), to be like minded, and to speak in a sound pattern of words. Furthermore, by the grace of God, I will not use his name in vain. I will not use his name to pray to what I know to be an idol.

    Yes, I believe that Jesus died for the whole world. But this same Jesus suffers himself to be rejected, especially by those who use his name in vain. They have set up another God in their hearts.

    I think we need to be asking the question of whether we want to pray with ELCA pastors unless they are thinking about leaving. That should have been our policy from the start. Walther prayed with other Lutherans who did not share his confession during the free conferences because they were seeking understanding. Walther stopped praying even with people who had belonged to Synodical Conference after the predestinarian controversy erupted. He surely wouldn’t have been caught praying with a Methodist.

    The Jesus of the ELCA’s public confession is not the Jesus who sees God’s creation as paradigmatic for human relationships. The Jesus of the ELCA’s public confession is not one with the Creator.

    What is in the hearts of the simple–that I do not know. I have no confidence that there is Church in their assemblies. Just like I have no confidence that there is Church at a Reformed assembly.

    Furthermore, just as another general standard: those who do not go to the Lord’s Supper…as for me (and all who subcribe to the Lutheran Confessions) I will not call them Christians. God is not bound. I am.

    Pax in Christo

  21. Pastor Rossow,
    I see no quote from Rev. Harrison….
    We would be very quick to correct other websites. Do we not fall under the same standard?
    Please correct the heading. It is my opinon that it is misleading and incorrect.

    John Hooss

  22. #19 John, an unlikely pastor,

    Jesus died for everyone, even me.

    The Holy Spirit has given faith through His Word and Sacraments, even to me. But He has given me the freedom to reject the Lord in whom that faith trusts.

    Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions teach the One True Faith, the Means of Grace, the Lord Jesus Christ by whom I am saved. If I confess a Jesus other than the One revealed in the Bible I do not know the Father and He does not know me. If I say I have no sin I deceive myself and the Truth is not in me.

    I am not here to judge anyone’s soul. I am here to live the life Christ has given me to live. Therefore, I must be watchful and pray to God that the evil foe, the world and I my own sinful nature will not lead me into the temptation to reject Jesus who has so clearly and freely given Himself for you and for me. If we choose to reject the Word of God and teach another, it would be better for us if we had never been born.

  23. John,

    After I got the e-mail I talked to Mr. Colver personally and am quite certain that this is Rev. Harrison’s opinion. I never asked the question directly but am quite certain of this. That is why I wrote the headline the way I did. I was not trying to be deceptive.


  24. Pastor Rossow,
    Thanks for the follow up.
    I know I bug you all on source and content from time to time, but it is important to me (and others) that the content of the site be accurate. We are being watched on our actions and words I’m sure.
    I would call out anyone on any side of an issue if it is mis-represented. I would expect that you would do the same with me.

    Thanks for your work!

    John Hooss

  25. John H,

    That was the spirit in which I took your comment. Thanks for the diligience.


  26. @stub

    Stub, Anonymous, et. al,

    I appreaciate your stance on not praying with a person with whom, you don’t share a common confession. I myself pray often with others who consider themselves Jesus’ followers who you may choose not to pray with. That’s the beauty of the true Christian freedom. Luther wrote about it in Saxony 500 years ago and the church has been ringing with this news ever since.

    Jesus dying and rising has set all who believe free from sin to live for Him and Him alone. You and I differ in how best to live in ouf Christian freedom; but I give thanks to Jesus for shedding blood to set you free, just the same as He has set me and all other believers free from sin, death, and the devil.

    The question at hand here is about sharing in service for the good of our neighbors, not praying with others. Maybe I can rephrase it:

    Will you serve in the Name of Jesus, for the good of your neighbors with others whom you might or might not join in prayer?

    thanks for your thoughtful response.

    In Christ

  27. John,

    Unity in externals can be tricky, if that’s what you are talking about. The Christian’s prayer is that his whole life is a living sacrifice in the Name of Jesus. The Christian serves all and does good works because his neighbor needs them. The problem comes in when you give the public impression that you are working in the same name, when in fact you are not. Jesus name is his rep’ and it hangs on his whole person and work. The problem is that the public confession of the ELCA conflicts with the name of that person. Some pastors/bishops in the ELCA are inconsistent with or publicly in a state of confession against their denomination and that’s a good thing. However, there are obviously many in the ELCA with an agenda, who are possessed by doctrines of demons. If our cooperation with the ELCA has nothing to do with presenting Jesus name, but just has to do with serving our neighbor, then there is no difference between that and giving money to any secular charity. Nevertheless, unity in externals could put some faithfully lay people and pastors in very compromising and unfortunate circumstances just like Army chaplaincy puts faithful Lutheran pastors in compromising circumstances. It’s tricky business. We gotta talk about it though. At the least we need to be as transparent as possible.

  28. Stub, et al,

    I don’t think any Christians will ever be free of all potential “public” ties to those who we disagree with. Christians will always be lumped together in the eyes of the world with those we disagree with who also claim Jesus as Lord. Try hard to fight it; but you can’t overcome the public perceptions and historic connections that exist with those you disagree with.

    I am not asking a hypothetical questions about official ties between denominations. I am asking practically what you would do, in service for your neighbors? What you would encourage others to do in service to their neighbors? What would you do honestly:

    -If a young person in your church came to you and excitedly said she was going with a group from her friends church on a service trip to help clean up after a natural disaster?
    Would your response be different if it was
    a Roman Catholic group,
    an ELCA group,
    an LCMS group, or
    a Methodist group?
    Please explain, as you would to this young woman and her family, if this is a good or a bad idea.

    -If a neighboring pastor, who you don’t agree with, like an ELCA pastor, invited you personally to be part of a community wide food pantry? Would you help raise funds and food for that pantry? Would you not return the phone call?

    There are very limited shared ministries between the ELCA and the LCMS. The few that exist are focussed on the good of our neighbors and it is important to ask, “What good would come to your neighbors from ending these relationships?”

    thanks for your thoughtful responses

  29. @John, an unlikely pastor : I think you are attempting to compare apples and oranges. TO me there is a huge difference between sending my kid on a service trip with another organization, or my working hand-in-hand with the local ELCA or Methodist church to help my neighbor, with two church organizations working together.

  30. @Norm Fisher
    the relationships are certainly different between how local churches interact and national church bodies work together, but the question remains, in my mind, not as one about national church bodies but about our neighbors. It’s time to ask tricky questions like,

    “What good would come to our neighbors from ending the few current cooperative relationships between the ELCA and the LCMS that exist to serve our neighbors?”

    I can’t see good coming to our neighbors from ending these relationships. Please tell me the good you see that will be done on behalf of your neighbors from ending these relationships.



  31. Yes, “Christians will always be lumped together in the eyes of the world with those we disagree with who also claim Jesus as Lord.” That doesn’t, however, mean we need to go out of our way to perpetuate the myth. If we sever ties with the ELCA on joint projects, it doesn’t mean we will have run out of neighbors. The neighbor will still be there, and we will still be able to serve them. My neighbor is whomever God puts before me with a need on this particular day. Each situation will be worked out one by one by each pastor or other Christian as his or her conscience allows, directed by the Word of God. Franz Pieper put it this way: “We stand in a fellowship which holds fast the entire Word of God, the entire revelation, a fellowship in which souls are properly cared for and in which God is given the honor that is due Him. What a blessing we share! We cannot sufficiently praise it. This blessing is granted to us through the free grace of God . . . It is God who has given us understanding so that we are not caused to vacillate by the unionistic talk about love and peace, but rather that we know that the first article of love to God and men is that we firmly hold to and confess the total Word of God . . . We dare not allow any other concept of unity to arise among us than the unity of faith which is in harmony with Scripture, the agreement in all articles of Christian doctrine . . . What value would there be in any external co-operation in church work if the boundaries of our faith were not correctly established according to God’s Word and we did not remain one in all articles of doctrine established for us in God’s Word? If we, in a unionistic fashion, wanted to surrender this or that doctrine of the Word of God: if, under the pretext of allowing love to hold sway, we were to allow false doctrines to have citizenship rights among us, then all of our outward standing together and working together would be a caricature of the God-desired unity. The unity of faith is most seriously threatened when indifference to false doctrine moves in. The unity of faith is immediately destroyed when one part adopts and holds fast false doctrine . . . Such a unity of faith as God has entrusted to us is indeed rare in the world. Therefore we should most earnestly foster it with all God-given means.”

  32. @Scott Diekmann
    the question at hand is about service not for a vague could be maybe neighbor who might providentially show up at your door tomorrow. The question I see at hand is, Should the LCMS walk away from cooperative efforts to help real people after starting to help them?”

    LCMS World Relief and Human Care lists 4 partner organizations that are linked together with people from the ELCA for service to real, not imaginary, neighbors around the globe.

    I have worked with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) a bit and have organized 5 trips with congregation members with Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR). These are real organizations that are living out the gospel in service today. It takes resources and skill to go into a flood zone and actually do good. Real efforts to help people are complicated. It takes logistical resources and planning that go beyond my simple comprehension. I can’t speak personally about LIRS or LSA; but I will say that LDR especially is doing good work serving our neighbors.

    I can’t help but think on Jesus’ words here again and again in Matthew 22 as I read your response.

    Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
    36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Why would anyone want to throw away these foundations for future service if it ends up hurting the ones we are called to love just as we love ourselves?

    Jesus said the poor will always be with us and he wasn’t kidding. I believe there is great onus on any who demand to see these kinds cooperative service relationships end to see to it that the needs of the neighbors, who are currently served, are not overlooked in any way.

    The question that I see at hand is not a question of Orthodox or Hetrodox churches. Instead I see people trying hard to do what Jesus called us to do. So I ask again,

    “What good do you see that will be done on behalf of your neighbors from ending these relationships between the LCMS and the ELCA?”

  33. John,

    You are committing the logical falacy of false alternatives. You argue that:

    1) If we break partnership with the ELCA then

    2) We are hurting the ones we are called to love.

    You are falsely making it appear as if the only alternatives are to work with the ELCA or to hurt the ones we are called to love. That is not true and does not make logical sense. Other acceptable and preferabe alternatives include helping those we are called to love without copperating with the ELCA.


  34. Yes John, the LCMS should walk away from cooperative efforts to help real people after starting to help them, as far as that help is a joint venture with the ELCA. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t continue to help these people to the best of our ability as a Synod, or that we cannot do so, without the ELCA. We should continue to do that.

    “Why would anyone want to throw away these foundations for future service if it ends up hurting the ones we are called to love just as we love ourselves?” No one would want to do that John. I haven’t found anyone yet who wants to abandon our efforts – it’s an unsavory prospect. But we don’t want to promote heterodoxy, which would hurt real people in a way far greater than their physical needs. Will we be violating Jesus’s own words in Matthew 22? No. We will still continue to help people. The sky isn’t going to fall if we discontinue our relationship with the ELCA. Our efforts will need to be reorganized, not discontinued.

    “What good do you see that will be done on behalf of your neighbors from ending these relationships between the LCMS and the ELCA?” We will be doing what we are commanded to do: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” – the didache of Christ, not a social gospel tailored to fit the world’s idea of what is right.

    Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
    2 John 1:9-11 ESV

    I ask you John, is the ELCA abiding in the teaching of Christ?

  35. It’s clear that you see the ELCA as an apostate denomination.

    When I look at the ELCA I see people and pastors who were baptised in the same blood of Jesus as you were. Other’s might try to deny that we worship the same Jesus; but I find no grounds for such denials that don’t logically undermine Jesus death and rising as the only source of my own unmerited salvation too. I know many who are struggling to be faithful today in the ELCA to the same Jesus revealed in scripture that you call Lord.

    Now is the moment to meet together not to close the doors. I see an opportunity in this moment for Lutherans meet 1 to 1 as people who can grow together in faith and truth. But if the doors that are open today, the doors of shared service, are slammed shut the opportunity of this moment will be lost.

    I give thanks that because of Jesus’ blood you are free as Christians to choose to serve or not to serve with whomever you choose. So why ought other Christians not be secure in the same blood bought freedom to serve or not to serve their neighbors with others as they see best?

    Please consider Luther’s advice to the church given in his 4th of 8 Sermons at the Invocavit. “… if we use our liberty without need, and deliberately cause offense to our neighbor, we drive away the very one who in time would come to our faith.”

    In my 10 years as a pastor I have found few places where Lutherans step out of the walls and day to day order of their homes, work, and congregations like shared service. It’s in these moments when we have our greatest 1 to 1 chance to influence others.

    thanks for your attention to this matter and taking these challenges to your thoughts seriously.

    Yours in Christ

  36. John – I admire your sincerity but your posts keep shifting – Your last response brings up a whole new topic – what severing ties would do to the ELCA members. Until now we were talking about what would happen the folks who are currently being served by the relief efforts.

    Let me be clear our joint efforts with the ELCA (as a body) will do nothing to help those individuals who are struggling with the ELCA’s latest apostasy. The message we are sending them is, “don’t worry about it; its okay. See we’re still gonna act like nothing happened.” Their pain and hurt is good. It means that they recognize that a horrible thing has happened. And we, the LCMS, need to confirm that that pain is justified and we need to end our relationship with the ELCA as a body and begin the difficult job of meeting and helping each individual at the individual level. We do not help them by telling them everything is alright. It ain’t; things are very, very bad. But we have a salve, we can offer relief. But it can’t be offered via joint LCMS and ELCA endeavors – it can only be offered to the individual.

  37. John

    You bring up some interesting questions. I think however that arguing on the basis of what benefits my neighbor is the wrong way to go. A theological argument should be able to be made for continuing the relationship. If it cannot be made then it seems dangerous to justify marginalizing doctrine for any reason. I have absolutely no doubt that there are good orthodox believers in the ELCA. I also know that there are those who have no regard for scripture at all. Since the question is about a relationship between denominations then it is the actions of the denomination that should matter most in deciding the matter, no matter how orthodox or heterodox some of its members may be. At what point would a churches’ beliefs be too heterodox for organizing humanitarian efforts? Is a basic understanding that Jesus died for them, however they understand that, all that is necessary, or maybe the Trinity, the Resurrection, Justification, the Creeds or Christ’s divinity? What about when a church may agree to a basic doctrine but mean something very different by it?

    The question seems to involve what level of doctrinal agreement is needed for a particular relationship. Such a question could also be posed to relationships within the synod. There seems to be a range of positions on different doctrinal issues among member churches. If the doctrinal problems that might cause the LCMS to sever ties to the ELCA were similar to what is practiced in an LCMS church what response would be appropriate? What if the doctrinal problems are not as severe, what then? If the problems are tolerated but not endorsed?

    I’m sure people and churches in the ELCA have asked themselves similar questions. In the LCMS I’m sure that some people have left, some do not want to leave an historically orthodox church and hope to reform the synod, some ignore any problems that seem distant to them and some are ignorant of any problems. I’m sure there are many other ways people deal with the issue. The answer to what should be done with regard to the ELCA would be somewhere between no member helping out any other person when an ELCA member is also helping and the LCMS having close working ties with any religious group regardless of doctrine. I think the answer to doctrinal tolerances with other groups will help to answer what doctrinal tolerances should be allowed within the LCMS and vice versa.

    While I think uniform doctrine should be expected within the LCMS, I do not expect it from other churches. If I, as an individual, am working with a group to help some people in need I do not expect everyone to have the same beliefs. If it is a pastor in the role of a pastor, a church or the synod working in tandem with other churches to organize efforts I would expect some similarity in beliefs. I seem to recall one of the reasons for having a synod was to organize the efforts of like-minded churches, the seminaries being one product of these efforts. If the synod is not able to sufficiently organize some humanitarian efforts without the help of other churches then maybe we are overreaching.

    I do not know exactly what doctrinal tolerances should be permitted in interdenominational humanitarian efforts, but I hope additional discussion will help to clarify it. I do think the issue is different from the activities a member may choose to participate in and if a congregation helps to collect food for a food bank, but they both, like the relationship between the LCMS and ELCA and even congregations within the LCMS involve looking at doctrinal tolerances in activities with other groups. I also think that a church helping in an effort to collect food that is spearheaded by a food bank would be different than if it was by a Unitarian church for a food bank. I have some more thinking to do on this topic, thank you John for your thoughts.

  38. I am having trouble balancing two things and I think that might be the reason I am vacillating between two sides of concern for our neighbors.

    First I am concerned that my neighbors know Jesus’ love revealed in the cross. It motivates me everyday as a pastor and a dad. I pray that I can teach Jesus Word and nothing other in my whole life. I rejoice every time my kids can tell me back a Bible story. I cheer every time a child comes for confirmation who has no background in the church. I give thanks for the blessing to share the story that has given me hope beyond this world.

    Scott pointed to the Great Commission as motivation to withdraw from current relationships. I wrestle here because the great commission starts with the imperative Go. How does this happen if the Good News is kept as a private treasure in the walls of churches? The first imperative in the Great Commission has always been Go.

    We live in a veritable marketplace of ideas. Just google truth and you’ll find 230 million hits. How can we participate in this marketplace of ideas and competing truth claims, sharing Jesus who is the Way and the Truth, if we close some of the doors that might allow one to one conversation. I have rarely seen polemics build the church; but I have seen some great back yard evangelism.

    Second I have learned, thanks to other pastors I have worked with and members of congregations where I have served, that most Lutheran are eager to be participants in work that brings Jesus love to others. Most Lutherans aren’t going to want to knock on doors to tell about his love; but many love to go lend a hand supporting others.

    I see the strong desire to be faithful as Paul guides us. No doubt Paul wanted to keep the 1st century church, as best as humans were able then, free from error and united. I see that same desire in this dialogue today, but I also know that more complicated service to our neighbors only happens when complex concerns of logistics and resources are handled together. I also give thanks for shared service opportunities because service draws people in to the church. I have seen people come on service trips with us as “friends” who afterward committed themselves to be part of the church because they wanted to be part of the church that they saw in action.

    I’ve been in a basements with men from my congregation helping a Catholic and Lutheran families clean out sewage after a flood hit their town. We didn’t ask denominational affiliation before we went in to help. We just brought our shovel and wheel barrows and asked if they wanted to be muck out. Over the next hours we got to know each other. The next people to come in to help (the ones with the bleach and power-washers) were Mennonites. There were Baptists there who fed us all lunch (they are really good cooks too.)

    Most of the people who came to help were from churches; we didn’t talk much about doctrine that day. Still I could see that the people there to help were motivated by love for their neighbors. If I had insisted in waiting until someone came who shared all my beliefs to help along with us I would have delayed the work and had my cold sandwich instead of chicken gravy over biscuits.

    I think its an easy platitude to call for an end to cooperative efforts; but I still don’t see how it benefits either side.

    Thanks for you consideration

    Yours in Christ


  39. Unlikely John,

    You keep obsessing on closing doors. That argument does not stand; Let me try to explain as simply as possible.

    The LCMS has “x” amount of resources for human care. Right now part of it is going through door #2, the cooperation-with-the-ELCA-door. When we close door #2 we will take what went through that door and put it through door # 1, the current LCMS-alone-door, or door #3, new LCMS opportunites or even cooperation with groups that do deny the Gospel of Christ. One closed door means another opened door.

    We will never be able to solve all the problems of the poor. Jesus said we will always have the poor among us. We can only do what we can and not working with the ELCA does not hinder that. We shall take whatever the Lord gives us to distribute and do so.

    Even if none of that were reasonable, we still ought to close door #2 because we are doing so by Jesus own command:

    2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Belial? [2] Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

    “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
    17 Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
    and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
    18 and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
    says the Lord Almighty.”

    It befuddles me that you can not see this.


  40. TR,

    In disaster response I’ve always found such clear distinctions impossible as Paul lays them out in 1 Cor 6. I always find that it works more like 1 Cor 12:12-26.

    During one disaster response trip we helped out at a makeshift warehouse for a morning.

    We carried food from Walmart, boxes marked LDS Bishop’s Storehouse, and buckets from the Salvation Army. We joked about whether Lutherans ought to be carrying Mormon food and cleaning supplies; but we knew that the boxes held basics needed to help carry the people through to the next day.

    I can’t honestly tell the difference between Lutheran volunteers and Mormon bleach.

    Can you?

    Same goes for service as I’ve seen it shared to this point between the ELCA & LCMS. That’s my point. Service in Jesus Name, as I have seen it, takes partnership. It’s that simple.


    your’s in Christ

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