WMLT — Lunch With The Saint Louis Archbishop

Found on Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog:



Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and President Matthew C. Harrison

Today, ecumenical relations between The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis began with a good start when President Harrison had lunch with Archbishop Robert J. Carlson. Several months ago, Dr. Lawrence  Welch, Ecumenical Officer for the Archdiocese of St. Louis and Professor of Systematic Theology at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, contacted Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations for the LCMS, to see if President Harrison would be available to meet with Archbishop Carlson for a luncheon. The Archbishop asked President Harrison to lead the blessing for lunch. After praying for fruitful conversation between separated brethren and that the church may be one as Jesus prayed, President Harrison blessed the food with the prayer from the Small Catechism, “Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these Your gifts which we receive from Your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.” The Archbishop noted that he had used that very same prayer to bless the meal in certain settings. The Archdiocese of St. Louis sent representatives to attend the installation of President Matthew C. Harrison last September. Since then, the LCMS and the Archdiocese of St. Louis has had regular contact on a variety of matters. In particular, both churches are interested in further discussion and possible cooperation in the public square in matters relating to natural law and general morality in society.

Residence of the Archbishop

Archbishop Carlson is the tenth bishop of Saint Louis and the ninth archbishop of Saint Louis. President Harrison is the thirteenth president of The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. The Archbishop and the President had the opportunity to become better acquainted as well as to discuss common challenges both in the area of Christianity in a hostile world and in the area of ecclesial supervision. At one point, the Archbishop described a letter he had received from an individual the other day describing a problem in one of the local congregations. President Harrison replied in jest, “I think I know that person; he sent me the same letter about one of our congregations last week.” Humor aside, there are several challenges shared in common between our churches.

Dr. Lawrence Welch and President Harrison Discuss Seminary Education

Serving as chief ecumenical officer for the Missouri Synod, President Harrison presented Archbishop Carlson and Dr. Welch with copies of Walther’s Law and GospelLutheran Service BookNatural Law: A Lutheran Reappraisal, and A Little Book On Joy (all published by Concordia Publishing House) to better acquaint them with the Missouri Synod. President Harrison also was able to give a brief description of the Missouri Synod’s emphasis on Witness (martyria), Mercy (diakonia), Life Together (koinonia). Dr. Welch was surprised to learn that Lutherans celebrated the feast of Saint Mary, Mother Of Our Lord (see the blog post). He mentioned that this was a good example for him to use in his class on other church bodies. The Archbishop then asked what other feasts and celebrations Lutherans held, to which we referred them to the front of the Lutheran Service Book for a listing of recognized feast days. Once again, there was a recognition that both churches face similar challenges in the areas of preaching and worship life.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis

The luncheon concluded with appreciation and thanksgiving for the opportunity to meet and discuss. Drs. Welch and Collver agreed to remain in contact and to follow up on a couple of items from the meeting. A theme repeated in the meeting is that church bodies actually come closer together by honestly recognizing the differences between them and when each respects the other and allows the other to hold its position with integrity. The Archbishop noted that true unity is a gift from the Holy Spirit and not the result of our own efforts; however, it does not mean that we ought not talk to one another. Thank you Archbishop Carlson for your gracious invitation to lunch. Thank you Dr. Lawrence Welch for facilitating this meeting.


Rev. Albert B. Collver, Ph.D.

Director of Church Relations — Assistant to the President

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.


WMLT — Lunch With The Saint Louis Archbishop — 182 Comments

  1. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #152

    You want Scripture and theology to precede doctrine, and doctrine to precede practice?


    How about theology proper: the Trinity?

    John 17:21 — “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

    Because of disagreements that must not be swept under the rug or bargained away, such through the joint declaration on justification, our unity cannot be full. But does that authorize use to defame the the unity of the Father and the Son by not having what unity could truly exist?

    If we work together where we actually do agree, you fear, “Will that confirm her in her belief that, yeah, they’re all the same?” You have left your theological motivation. Who cares what they think of us? That’s only an anthropologial concern. What do they think of God? That’s a theological concern, and in the very same verse, Jesus answers it, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Our concern should not be about us, but about the Father and Christ. They will doubt the Father and Christ because of our needless disunity. Let’s take away whatever offenses we can, though no more than we truly can.

  2. I’ve been doing some research on the CLC (Church of the Lutheran Confessions) recently, and the the way the speak and defend their doctrine of church fellowship is remarkably similar to what is being advocated by many of our outspoken brothers here. Interesting!

  3. @Monte Meyer #155

    The CLC and the WELS are not entirely wrong in their fellowship views. I dont agree with them all. It would be better to debate than just throw out a “guilt by association” sorta thing. Doncha think?

  4. FWS – no, not really, because I don’t buy into the “unit Principle of Fellowship” – I haven’t for a long time. My only comment was that some of the theology proposed here is remarkably similar….

  5. @Todd Wilken #157
    sorry I didn’t see your comment earlier. I pray freely with other christians, support my own members in the scouts and also vocally support our dear military chaplains. I know that the wels would not support those things under their unit concept.
    I know that both synods will have to come to agreement on fellowship if there will ever be fellowship.

  6. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #159
    Pr. Scheer, I’ve appreciated all your answers above, including this one.

    I wonder if both synods could agree on the following (I should say, I wonder if a significant chunk from each synod could agree on the following):

    1) There is a difference between public prayer as matter of confession and private prayer. There is also a difference between praying with “other Christians” and praying with “false prophets” who proclaim false doctrine and stubbornly deny the truth of the Gospel (in one or many articles, doesn’t matter). In Matthew 7, Jesus is quite clear about good trees and bad trees. Tertium non datur. But that’s in the context of preachers, not the poor Christians who are deceived by them. (By the way, I’m not including (all) LCMS preachers with the “false prophets” label. Just thought I should say that out loud.)

    2) Scouting: No doubt Boy Scouts of America is a pluralistic organization with more or less religious emphasis, depending on the region and the troop. Serving “god” is part of what all Scouts are supposed to be doing. Which “god”? Christians are certainly unequally yoked with unbelievers in that organization in outright syncretism, not to mention unionism. But… is a Lutheran church’s local troop necessarily linked with the unionism and syncretism in the broader organization? I don’t know. Good men might be able to disagree on that question. More discussion needed.

    3) Military chaplaincy can be a great blessing if the chaplain is not forced to compromise conscience or confession in his Gospel ministry. There is nothing wrong with being a Lutheran chaplain. There is a problem with a Lutheran saying a (Roman Catholic) Mass, which has happened in the military. Then there’s the cooperation with the E??A…

  7. @Rev. Paul Rydecki #160

    I like all your points except 3. I think the wels has the right approach here, although I know it must not be easy. The LCMS participation on the chaplaincy program has meant lots of mischief for LCMS doctrine.

    as to the scout issue: I think actually that the wels position on the scouts represents a confusion of law and gospel in the law and gospel modality of two kingdoms.

    pagans and christians are expected to do their “duty to God’ in the form of good works and to love ones neighbor. All are the same here as to the Law. And we teach our children , to precisely illustrate this, the stories in the bible that show how God will punish men with earthly punishments and bless those who do love for others with earthly blessings. This is what Luther recommends we are to do in his preface to the Catechisms.

    So there is no danger in teaching this earthly righeousness that is totally of the Law extorting it out of the old adams of christian and pagan alike. both christian and pagan are to be taught this form of small r righeousness that pleases God on earth, and that he demands and also providences without our worthiness, prayer or faith in Christ.

    It is alone the church that can teach that other Righeousness that has us be terrified by our own best works, and then turn to hide our good works in the Works of another. This is the heavenly kingdom that can be know only by faith in Christ alone.

    I think the free masons are a different issue. they really do teach these good works as part of a ritual and religion with prayers etc. etc. they tell people that they can be saved and made just before God in an eternal sense, by their works. Scouts do not take good works there. At the same time, there are confessional Lutheran pastors, right out of seminary, who inherit congretations full of free masons. The need to have patience and teach their masonic members out of this carefully and with alot of mercy. Unfortunately this is not an uncommon situation in the LCMS I am told.

  8. @Rev. Paul Rydecki #160

    I would LOVE to see the ELCA , WELS and LCMS and ELS cooperate in one very significant area. I would love to see them share a common pension plan and health plan .

    Why? It would facilitate pastors and seminary professors to move from one synod to another. It encourage churches and pastors to realign in ways that those of similar convictions would be in the same synod.

    But then, reflecting, maybe it is Gods will for things to be as they are and for the Law to discipline faithful pastors by having them obey their bishops and at the same time be faithful to the Word of Christ. The fact that there are faithful pastors in the ELCA might be a blessing to those other pastors and congregations that are wobbly on the Confessions.

  9. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #159

    So, if we can pray with other Christians, participate in the scouts and support military chaplains with denominations with whom we have no fellowship– without giving offense, why must we limit our cooperation in externals to those with whom we enjoy altar and pulpit fellowship?

    I’m obviously missing something here.


  10. @fws #163
    I would LOVE to see the ELCA , WELS and LCMS and ELS cooperate in one very significant area. I would love to see them share a common pension plan and health plan .

    I would hate to think that our congregation, through its provision for the Pastor’s health and pension, were contributing to a plan which allows abortion on demand, as the elca’s church worker insurance does.
    So can we leave the elca out of your plan?

    It might be a good idea, as has been mentioned elsewhere, to make our synod’s plans “portable” so that those who lean to another church body could take their earned benefits with them, (and I hope it would be reciprocal). That might indeed promote peace and walking together, to enable men to go where their heart and beliefs are!

  11. @helen #166

    Your idea is exactly what I meant Helen. And to do that portability, I do think there would need to be some coordination and cooperation between the synods.

  12. Joshua,

    Again I will ask: if we can pray with other Christians, participate in the scouts and support military chaplains with denominations with whom we have no fellowship– without giving offense, why must we limit our cooperation in externals to those with whom we enjoy altar and pulpit fellowship?


  13. @Todd Wilken #168
    In 1943, Pastor Karl Friederich Stellbrink was beheaded for conspiring with three Catholic priests to oppose Nazi totalitarianism. Can anyone really suggest that Pastor Stellbrink “wasted his “precious time trying dialogue with the Catholic church”? Does God expect us to remain silent in the face of the holocaust of the unborn rather than co-operate with the Catholic church?

  14. @Todd Wilken #168
    My understanding of chaplains is that they are still able to maintain their good confession, although it is a struggle (I commend the chaplains for their efforts). I also understand that our Synod is starting to make more distinctions between Lutherans in the military (also something I commend).
    My main thing that I have tried to stress is that mercy work is something I think should involve the proclamation of the Gospel as well, care for body and soul rather than just body. With that in mind, you can see why I would rather see us doing mercy things with those we agree with. If I have sounded too harsh, please consider it as my purely being the drunken german peasant on the other side of the horse.

  15. @Karl #169

    This topic is devolving fast. It is not safe to argue from particular and contextual situations to prove a general assertion of Truth. And this example had the added disservice of an emotional appeal.

    yeah maybe it is ok to have a scout troup in a church and pray with others. I am not sure that it is wise to ask and argue from that how it is inconsistent then to cooperate in externals as Dr Wilken is.

    Dr Wilken’s argument begs for the articulation of a general principal, from scriptures and the Confessions that governs both and all of these. And he is not close to providing that general principle here. Maybe he assumes the readers know what it is?

    I would suggest that the it is the Doctrine of the Distinction of Law and Gospel that would enlighten us here. And the form of that Doctrine then would need to be the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms which is only and nothing but the casuistic version of the L&G doctrine.

    We are Lutheran. Our arguments need to start with doctrine from the Confessions and Holy Scripture, not from casuistic arguments.

  16. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #170

    “My main thing that I have tried to stress is that mercy work is something I think should involve the proclamation of the Gospel as well, care for body and soul rather than just body.”

    I don’t agree Pastor Scheer. Could you please provide is with where, why and how this is a requirement in our Confessions or in Holy Scripture.

    Now I might agree that this is a wise approach, or even maybe the best approach. But that is not to say what you are saying. In the case where I would agree, it would be to say that the Church should focus, and not be distracted from the Purpose for their existence as an Earthly, Worldly visible government much like any other government. And that Purpose is to maintain earthly order in order to Administer Word and Sacraments.

    So then in that case we should do mercy work only as it would present itself in the course of that primary work.

    The apostles got entangled in Mercy work. And they did not say this was wrong.
    It appears, maybe I am wrong, that this work was within the membership of their congretation (s) and directed at members only.

    And at the same time they thought it was unwise to be doing this? Why? their primary task was to administer word and sacrament. This is similarly why St Paul says that it is better for pastors, IF they are granted the rare miracle of celebacy, to remain single. So that they can be singleminded in the primary task of their vocation.

    Now is it good or right or whatever for the synod to be involved on mercy work even among the pagans. Dunno. Great question. As a matter of wisdom and not scriptural Law, I would think it would be better for the synod to narrow itself to Gospel work, that would be to run seminaries, teacher training schools, publishing houses etc. And maybe it would be better for the congregations and individuals to do the Mercy Work.

    As for the military chaplaincy, I think that is a somewhat different issue.

  17. @fws #172
    I said “I think” for the reason you ask the question. I will say that there are many times in Scripture where Jesus takes care of both body and soul.
    I am glad you noted that initial mercy work of the church was to its own membership (as any had need, right?). Amazing that when the church did that it held high “favor” with all people. My oh my, those Christians, how they love each other!

    But if you say that too loud you will be accused of being inwardly focused and not interested in the lost.

    If mercy work was within the congregation and among the members of it, then it was hardly something the church worried about doing with other denominations (although I am not sure we can find those in the Scriptures either).

    My comments are as I stated to Rev. Wilken, a reaction and my own falling onto the other side of the horse as a drunken german peasant trying to stay on.

  18. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #173

    “I said “I think” for the reason you ask the question. ”

    Fair enough! 🙂

    1) We should not argue for a general principle from casuistry as Dr Wilken and those he is engaging are both seeming to do.

    2) Biblical description is not also biblical prescription. Paul , as a ruler of the church, at one time orders his flock to follow jewish dietary laws and be circumcized, then he turns around and says that the “circumciser party” should be sharply rebuked so their doctrine is restored.

    There is no inconsistency there. I am saying that we need to ponder the underlying reasoning to arrive at why there was no inconsistency. I suggest that that is found 1) in St Pauls exhortation to be all things to all men, 2) 1 cor where he thricely says ALL things ARE lawful , as he repeats in a similar context in Titus Ch 1, but that not all things are useful [in doing love for others]. And 3) maybe more potently in our dear Lord’s violation of his own Sabbath Law and his explanation that God’s intent with morality is to have us do neighbor vectored mercy to others and not some God vectored obedience .

    We can tell the difference between mercy and sacrifice by observing, with reason and our eyes, if the aim of what we do is to improve the creaturely romans 8 fleshly needs of others (mercy) or is to instead imagine that we can do, or are asked to do anything at all that does not need to be hidden in the Works of Another as the filth that they are (sacrifice and idolatry are these works).

  19. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #173

    your though about mercy work being internal I think has some merit.

    The Apology on the Church suggests that we think if the Holy Catholic Church as being a government identical in character to the other two Earthly Kingdom governments of family and society.

    So we as a church are like a family and we can invite other needy to sleep over or feed them etc, but they are given mercy in our home, as guests , and need to follow the customs and rules of our home.

    or we could think of it as our government agreeing to help out in france or somewhere when there is a natural disaster. We would then be entering someone elses domain, and the extent and nature of our help in that case would respect our own laws and rules and also respect and be limited by the rules and customs of that other country where we would be working as a guest.

    I think this would be the proper and actually Confessional way to look at things. the answers are ALL there in our Confessions. But they are there in a way that resists proof texting or word searches.

  20. @fws #174

    To extend my thought. say we as a government go to do mercy in a country that is under sharia law. We would expect that law as long as we participated in no harm. We would simply decline to participate in the chopping off of a hand for theft, or to participate in projects that would maybe not treat women as they should be treated. Maybe we would refrain from evangelizing even. I am not persuaded it is always wrong to sever evangelism from mercy work. In a wide area disaster like katrina , Lutheran relieve can better coordinate the use of sanctuaries converted to sleep facilities etc and I am not sure in that case that we need to require the recipients to attend a sermon.

    The american equivalent would be to cooperate with the ELCA, respect their law-is-gospel views on homosexuality etc, depending upon the work needing done.

    Maybe I am saying that this is situational in a way none of our Old Adams really likes. At the same time there is a definite Confessional framework called Two Kingdoms , which is really simply another form of Law and Gospel, that needs to guide us.

  21. @helen #177

    I don’t follow you helen.

    The chinese government mandates abortion. I am not sure it would be sinful for the LCMS to cooperate with the Chinese government to do disaster flood relieve in China because that is so.

    Therefore I am not sure it would be good to issue a blanket assertion that it would be sinful to cooperate with the ELCA because they support not mandatory abortion but legalized abortion.

  22. No offense, fws. Yes, I do.
    I used that picture (taken at HT, San Antonio 😉 because people describing me are more likely to mention my braid than my face, (which is unremarkable). 🙂

    @fws #178
    Therefore I am not sure it would be good to issue a blanket assertion that it would be sinful to cooperate with the ELCA because they support not mandatory abortion but legalized abortion.

    I don’t think we should cooperate with elca at all, because it confuses people as to our own belief on various matters (beginning with the authority and veracity of Scripture; all else follows). The general public is confused enough already!
    A joint benefits plan would mean that lcms was also paying for elective abortion and it would be available to our own church workers. Not the way, IMHO!

    Doing disaster flood relief anywhere is not a blanket approval of all their government does.
    [If it were, we would have stayed out of Haiti and many other places.]

  23. Rev. Paul T. McCain :We are not actively in partnership with the ELCA to get rid of malaria, Rick Strickert aka “Carl Vehse.”
    But you knew that.

    Did he know that? I didn’t know that. I had been under the assumption all this time that it was a deal between the ELCA, LCMS and Ted Turner.

  24. @Timothy C. Schenks #181 : “Did he know that?”

    Yes I knew that, as I indicated in a July 6, 2011, BJS post.

    My posts #138, #139, and #141 above explained that the XXCA still is connected to the LCMS through our mutual association in the LWR, which is one of the partners in the LMI.

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