Check out this press release from the ELCA yesterday. See if you notice anybody missing from the talks. More on that below.
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 1, 2009
ELCA, LCMS Leaders to Continue Cooperative Ministries, When Possible
BALTIMORE (ELCA) — Leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) agreed they would do all they can to continue their longtime cooperative ministries, despite decisions made by voting members of the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly regarding human sexuality.
The ELCA is a 4.6-million member church based in Chicago. The 2.4-million member LCMS is based in St. Louis. The ELCA and the LCMS do not have “altar and pulpit fellowship” with each other because of doctrinal disagreements.
Meeting as the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation (CLC) Sept. 28-29, the leaders spent most of their time discussing the future of their present work together. Meeting with them were leaders of three such ministries: Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America, which provides a variety of human services through social ministry organizations, and Lutheran World Relief, an international relief and development agency, all based here.
At the center of the discussion were ELCA assembly actions taken in August. Assembly voting members adopted a social statement on human sexuality and a series of proposals to change ELCA ministry policies, including a change to make it possible for Lutherans in lifelong, publicly accountable, monogamous same-gender relationships to serve as ELCA associates in ministry, clergy, deaconesses and diaconal ministers.
The Rev. Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS president, said the decisions were incompatible with the Word of God, and do not agree with the consensus of 2,000 years of Christian teaching about what Scripture says regarding human sexuality. He also repeated words from his address to the ELCA assembly in Minneapolis that the actions of the ELCA would “negatively affect the relationships between our two churches,” and that the current division between the LCMS and ELCA “threatens to become a chasm.”
Setting the stage for the discussion on cooperative ministries was Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, former president, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS). He reviewed the history of Lutherans’ response to global human need and said the capacity of Lutherans to respond is considerable. “The world is crying out to Lutherans to continue this response,” he said.
The church leaders also met in groups to discuss the ministries. Most agreed that despite differences over human sexuality, the churches should continue working together as much as possible when it can be done without compromise. “I have a great concern for the ongoing ministries in which we do have a joint interest — and there are many of those,” Kieschnick said to the ELCA leaders, including the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop and president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
Kieschnick shared correspondence he has written to LCMS leaders, advising them that the LCMS president and vice presidents will continue to monitor the relationship with the ELCA. He offered suggestions to LCMS district presidents about how to respond when working with the ELCA in joint ministries when matters arise concerning the ELCA assembly decisions.
Kieschnick told the ELCA leaders that “we do have a real concern as the LCMS for doing everything we possibly can to deliver ministry” to people in need. “We don’t take this lightly. We believe that working together with other partners can enhance the ministry that’s delivered to the recipients,” he said. Cooperative ministry relationships with the ELCA will certainly be a topic to be discussed at the 2010 LCMS convention in Houston, Kieschnick added.
Hanson expressed gratitude to Kieschnick for his comments. “What you have said is very clear (and) honest,” the presiding bishop said. He said Kieschnick’s remarks would be “well-received” when Hanson reports to the ELCA Conference of Bishops, meeting Oct. 1-6 in Chicago.
Others echoed the comments of the two church leaders. The mission of the cooperative ministries is bigger than both church bodies, said the Rev. M. Wyvetta Bullock, ELCA executive for administration. “We’ve made a commitment to serve ‘the least of these’ and a commitment to work with people at the margins. Now is not the time to walk away from the mission we’ve been given,” she said.
The Rev. Raymond L. Hartwig, LCMS secretary, said it may be difficult to work together in some cases, “but it doesn’t mean the other 90 percent are not possible.” He asked leaders of cooperative ministries here to help while the churches “sort this out.”
“We believe, teach and confess some things that bind us together such as our common understanding of Baptism,” said the Rev. Samuel Nafzger, director of church relations and assistant to the president. He expressed hope that the churches could pledge to each other “to do, in good conscience, what we can do with integrity and in faithfulness to our respective doctrinal positions.”
The leaders also reported key information about their denominations:
+ Hanson said ELCA leaders continue to have conversations with global and ecumenical partner churches regarding the assembly’s actions on human sexuality.
+ The LWF Council will meet this month in Geneva, and it will elect a new general secretary, Hanson said. The current general secretary, the Rev. Ishmael Noko, plans to leave office next year.
+ The International Lutheran Council (ILC), which met in August in Seoul, South Korea, unanimously adopted a statement on same-gender relationships and the church, Nafzger said. It said Scriptures testify “that the lifelong committed union of one man and one woman is the place the Lord intends for human sexuality to be lived out,” and it said the ILC believes the practice of homosexuality violates the will of God. He also reported that the Rev. David Mahsman has been asked by the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (ILSW), a joint project of the LCMS and its partner church in Germany, the SelbstÃ¤ndige Evangelish-Lutherische Kirche, to serve as its managing director. The ILSW will seek to work together with other Christians in Wittenberg, including the ELCA Wittenberg Center, whenever possible,” Nafzger said.
+ Both churches reported income declines for 2009 and struggles to meet budget goals, mostly due to current economic conditions in the United States.
Attending for the ELCA were Bullock and Hanson, plus David D. Swartling, secretary; the Rev. Donald McCoid, executive, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations; Carlos PeÃ±a, vice president; and the Rev. E. Roy Riley, bishop, New Jersey Synod.
Attending on behalf of the LCMS were Hartwig, Kieschnick, Nafzger, plus the Rev. William R. Diekelman, first vice president; the Rev. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director, Commission on Theology and Church Relations; and Ronald Schulz, chief administrative officer.
Also present were Deffenbaugh; Anne Wilson, LIRS executive vice president; the Rev. John Nunes, president, Lutheran World Relief; and Jill Schumann, president and chief executive officer, Lutheran Services in America.
Where is Matt Harrison in all of this? We have a question into the LCMS about this.