Is it Cooperation in Externals if Only One Side Views it as an External?

Recently I read an article at the Reporter Online about the continued discussions between the ELCA and LCMS regarding their “Cooperation in Externals”.  This concept largely has to do with disaster relief, taking care of refugees and immigrants, and so forth.  I have had it described to me in terms of working together in First Article (of the Creed) things.  While the LCMS has tried to safeguard our confession of the Faith by referring to this work as “external”, the comments given by the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA reveal that they view our work together as something not so external.

From the article:

“There are too many people longing to hear the Gospel as we Lutherans understand it,” Hanson said. “It would be tragic if we become so preoccupied with our differences that they would come in the way of our Gospel proclamation.”

This does not sound like the ELCA views our work together as anything in “externals” but as work together in Gospel proclamation.   Please note the relativism (“as we Lutherans understand it”) and reductionism (making the many great differences separate to the “Gospel”) involved in this statement as well.

This begs the question: Is it still cooperation in externals when only one side views it as external?

I understand that this is a highly charged debate, but it needs to be had.

As one who has a decent amount of interaction with the other Lutherans out there, I think this LCMS working relationship with the ELCA is a hindrance to further discussion (and maybe someday walking or working together) with those who we are much closer theologically to.

I would ask that you include President Harrison, Dr. Collver, and Dr. Lehenbauer in your prayers especially on this matter.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Is it Cooperation in Externals if Only One Side Views it as an External? — 60 Comments

  1. @Redeemed #27
    Maybe someone can enlighten me. Why are we working with ELCA on world relief?

    Because, following WW II, when we were all using the common service, the joint organization was invented to help refugees in Europe, I believe.

  2. I wonder what Francis Pieper would say about Hanson’s reference to “we Lutherans”!

    In his great work, Christian Dogmatics, he references what God says we are to do:

    “It is important to point out again and again that in all Scripture there is not a single text permitting a teacher to deviate from the Word of God or granting a child of God license to fraternize with a teacher who deviates from the Word of God. God is against the prophets who proclaim their own dreams (Jer. 23:31f.) And all Christians without exception are command to avoid such (Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 6:3ff.)

    (Francis Pieper, D.D. Christian Dogmatics, Volume III, St. Louis, Concordia Publishing House, 1953, p. 422)

  3. Greetings everyone, It seems to me that what is missing from this discussion is the source of wanting to identify cooperation of externals. Fellowship in our confession is the key. We are starting in the wrong place, I think.

    If we start with externals, we will confuse our confession. When we start with our confession, which gives us our theology of church and ministry, then we get into fellowship.

    There is no “fellowship” in externals – at all. There are no levels of Christian relationships. It is all or nothing. The category of externals arose out of a discussion of what can faithful Christians do with non-Christians in acts of love.

    We can love our neighbors, whether or not they are Christian. We can work for and sided by side with anyone because they are our neighbors. We are not in fellowship with people with whom we excercise our daily worship of vocation.

    Thus, the cooperation of externals has nothing at all to do with fellowship because it is all or nothing.

    When we try to work backwards from vocation/externals to fellowship, we will end up with a false view of fellowship. We will eroneously end up with everything being fellowship and it isn’t.

    The real question is more along the lines of what can we feasibly do as LCMS in and what can we do with anyone just as long as we don’t participate in anything that is itself a worship service. IOW, the organists we hire… will they have to be in fellowship with us to play?

    Pastor Harrison has done a great job of moving LCMS WR into an agency that does its work instead of an agency that subsidizes the ELCA’s work. I would think this transition is not yet complete.

    Altar and pulpilt is the only place for the measure of church fellowship. Giving medicine to the poor or AIDS Orphans is not a matter of fellowship.

    BTW, this is the reason why the office of chaplain is a man made vocation and derives its authority from the secular institution that created it. Like any other vocation, we must step into it with the integrity of our confession. The same with cooperation of externals.

    Mark Sell

  4. Oh, I didn’t answer the question. To answer the article’s question, “Is it cooperation in externals if only one side views it as external?” Yes. Otherwise, we’d be in fellowship with them and the question is moot.

    The very definition of cooperation in externals is that the other person cooperating in the work being done doesn’t share our faith (fides quae) or our confession.

    mark Sell

  5. @Mrs. Hume #49
    Almost amusing that the colleges, seminaries, publishing house and confessions are all Concordia, but the church is Lutheran.

    Calling LCMS “Concordia” wouldn’t entirely solve the problem. Several better college choirs than I have heard from our Concordia system were recorded for PBS during the Christmas season. They (performing jointly and separately) all belonged to Concordia Lutheran College, ELC, Moorhead, Minnesota. They’ve sold their doctrine for a mess of pottage, but the musical heritage has so far endured.

    What happened to LCMS’ ?

    [YMMV]

  6. @Helen #55

    Hey, the LCMS’s Concordias have some great musical groups. The Wind Symphony at River Forest has recorded 17 CDs of sacred wind music, as has the Kapelle . The choir at Seward is probably the best in the CU System, and the instrumental music program at Mequon is also very good. Long story short, the LCMS also has carried on the rich Lutheran musical tradition.

  7. Old Time St. John’s :

    Joe Olson :@Old Time St. John’s #15 I think that is a false dichotomy – just because we stop providing care through a joint ELCA/LCMS program does mean we must necessarily stop addressing that particular need. And it does not mean that the ELCA will stop either addressing it either.

    I did not create a dichotomy, I don’t think. What I said was not, “Don’t stop,” but rather, “Don’t stop suddenly.” If we are indeed going to pull out of joint charitable work, we need to do it in a measured, responsible way.

    This is a very emotional issue. Withdrawing slowly will just prolong the bad publicity this will generate. Denominationalism is hurting our message in the long run. This is nothing new as it has been this way in the LCMS for years. I equate it to the adage you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Like it or not the impression the LCMS has given the general christian society for some time is somewhat sour.

  8. Stand Up and Shout :

    Old Time St. John’s :

    Joe Olson :@Old Time St. John’s #15 I think that is a false dichotomy – just because we stop providing care through a joint ELCA/LCMS program does mean we must necessarily stop addressing that particular need. And it does not mean that the ELCA will stop either addressing it either.

    I did not create a dichotomy, I don’t think. What I said was not, “Don’t stop,” but rather, “Don’t stop suddenly.” If we are indeed going to pull out of joint charitable work, we need to do it in a measured, responsible way.

    This is a very emotional issue. Withdrawing slowly will just prolong the bad publicity this will generate. Denominationalism is hurting our message in the long run. This is nothing new as it has been this way in the LCMS for years. I equate it to the adage you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. Like it or not the impression the LCMS has given the general christian society for some time is somewhat sour.

    Regarding the “sour” impression with the general public, does your assertion have any basis in fact. Or is the term “general Christian Society” code for watered-down “non-denominational Christians” who despise ALL denominations. What gives the LCMS a “bad reputation.”

    I keep hearing “The LCMS has a bad reputation.” That garbage is vehemently stated over and over and over again by ELCA pastors and the ELCA laymen over on the ALPB forum. Somehow these ELCAers are supposed to be our “friends.” Should the LCMS continue to work with these ELCA “friends.” Using the argument: “But would you deny a starving child in Africa food and blankets…” is a red herring that deflects from the original purpose of missions.

    How would the ELCA define the purpose of missions.
    How would the LCMS define the purpose of missions.
    How is this played out in LWR efforts?
    What kind of “Lutheran” are the lost supposed to become. Why else do “missions” if you do not want the lost to join your church (instead of someone else’s).

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.