Harking Back: “That We May Grow”

My hometown newspaper has a frequent feature called “Harking Back.” The column is a look back at what was happening 5, 10, 20+ years before on that date. I’d like to steal the idea of “harking back” to a time when the Missouri Synod was still recovering from the fallout of the Walkout at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO in the winter of 1974.

+Professor Kurt Marquart+ taught “Theology of the Ecumenical Movement” as an elective in the Winter Quarter of 2001-2002 at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN. I was privileged to take that class along with a number of foreign students from Africa and the former Soviet Union, not to mention the usual crowd of potential pastors of the LCMS. There is a scant reference in my class notes to a book called “Formula For Concord” published in 1978 (?). I found a copy of this book the other day in a retired pastor’s library and picked it up for my own library. The book features an introduction by Dr. Karl Barth (former president of Concordia Seminary, then President of the South Wisconsin District) and essays from Robert Preus, Martin C. Warth, and Ralph Bohlmann. The introduction and essays were given at a theologians convocation in November, 1977 on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.

The timing for rediscovering this book is felicitous. The convocation was the “kick-off” of sorts for what was known as “That We May Grow”, a program put together by the then Board for Parish Education in consultation with the Commission on Theology and Church Relations. “That We May Grow” (TWMG) came from a resolution at the 1975 LCMS Convention in Anaheim, CA. It recognized that “there is a hunger and longing for peace and unity” among all members of the Synod. The theological convocation began the TWMG emphasis (of sorts) in the Missouri Synod. A number of studies were published, either Bible Studies or Confessional Studies. I have some of these books in my own library that I’ve gathered through the years.

Dr. Barth’s keynote address mentions five goals of TWMG:

  • That the people of God in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod intensify their study of the Holy Scriptures together, trusting the Holy Spirit to increase and enrich their personal faith.
  • That the people of God in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod grow in their ability to translate what the Holy Scriptures teach about the Mission of Christ’ Church into concrete ministries.
  • That the people of God in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod study the Lutheran Confessions, grow in understanding and appreciation for their continued relevance, and praise God for 400 years of Lutheran heritage.
  • That the professional church workers of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod intensify their efforts to identify, discuss and resolve the theological issues that trouble us.
  • That the people of God in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as fellow members of the Body of Christ grow in the fulfilling of their loving responsibility for one another as they confront their problems and challenges.

My Generation X senses tell me that this was just another synodical program that endured for a while then, like all other synodical programs, was cast aside for another synodical program. I was in Kindergarten in the fall of 1977 so I can’t comment on how TWMG was received in the LCMS. I leave that to our seasoned readers who were more aware of synod matters in the late 1970s.

I write this post because it seems to me TWMG was an attempt at what is now being called the “Koinonia Project.” For those who are tapping their feet and already casting aspersions about the Koinonia Project, please know that my district (Northern Illinois) is one of the “pilot” districts. Meetings are happening, perhaps as I speak, about what this project should look like. Let’s be patient a while longer.

For now, I’ll settle for reading this interesting book called “Formula for Concord.” If “That We May Grow” didn’t grow as it should, perhaps the “Koinonia Project” will finally begin what should have begun decades ago: working toward concord among us in the LCMS.

About Pastor David Juhl

The Reverend David Michael Juhl was born June 1, 1972 in Du Quoin, IL. He was born from above by water and the Holy Spirit on June 18, 1972 at Bethel Lutheran Church, Du Quoin, IL. He was confirmed on March 23, 1986 at Bethel congregation. He attended Du Quoin public schools, graduating from Du Quoin High School in 1990. He attended John A. Logan Junior College, Carterville, IL, and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL, graduating with the Bachelor of Arts in Radio and Television in 1994. Before attending seminary, Pastor Juhl was a radio disc jockey, working for WDQN Radio in Du Quoin, IL and volunteering at WSIU/WUSI/WVSI Radio in Carbondale, IL while a student at SIU. Pastor Juhl is a 2002 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN. He served his vicarage at Faith Lutheran Church, Tullahoma, TN. His first charge after graduation was Trinity Lutheran Church, Iuka, IL, where he was ordained and installed on July 7, 2002. He served Trinity until March 4, 2007, when he accepted the Divine Call to serve Our Savior Lutheran Church, Momence, IL. Pastor Juhl is married to the former Rebecca Warmuth since October 3, 2003. They have one daughter, Catherine, born September 3, 2004, and two sons, Matthew, born October 11, 2008, and Christopher, born August 12, 2010.


Harking Back: “That We May Grow” — 8 Comments


    by Dr. Robert Preus

    Karl Rahner once said! that if the doctrine of the Trinity were
    no longer taught in the Roman Catholic Church today, there would
    probably be no real change in the worship and practice of contemporary
    Roman Catholics. With some modifications the same might be
    said of the Lutheran doctrine of the church as it affects modern Lutheran
    doctrine and practice. For generations now Lutherans all over
    the world have acted and lived without apparent awareness of the
    necessary implications of our historic confessional Lutheran ecclesiology on the life and practice of the church. This fact is nowhere
    more apparent today than in Lutheran discussions and activities
    relative to the formula for concord in contemporary Lutheranism
    and in Lutheran ecumenical involvement as a whole. Such activity
    has often been carried on as though there were no Lutheran doctrine
    of the church, as though there were no clear and infallible marks of
    the true church, or as though the church were no more than some sort
    of external societas comparable to a club or lodge or nation.

    A study of the Lutheran Confessions will reveal with clarity that
    a close relationship exists between what the church of Jesus Christ
    is and what its activity will be in its constant efforts toward doctrinal
    unity and concord. In fact, the nature of the church is a constitutive
    element, a paradigm, or model, in the church’s forinula for concord.
    When the doctrine of the church is ignored or distorted there will accordingly
    be no effective or God pleasing (Lutheran)· efforts toward
    achieving purity of doctrine and unanimity in the doctrine.


    1. Do you agree that the distinction which the confessional writings
    make betweenproprie dicta and late dicta can be appropriately
    termed “invisible” and “visible”?

    2. Why is it important to distinguish the marks of the church
    from the church itself?

    3. Do you agree with the statement that” the unity of the church
    is expressed simply by agreement (consentire) in this doctrine
    of the Gospel and in the Administration of the Sacraments
    (Aug. VII, 2)”?

    4. Is the latk of concord in the Lutheran Church today due to
    a lack of consensus in “doctrine and all its articles”? (FC,

    5. What does the distinction between Einigke it der Kirche and
    Einigkeit in der Kirche contribute to the whole discussion
    of unity and concord?

    6. Do you agree fundamentally with Dr. Preus’ discussion on
    the nature of the church?

    7. What questions pertaining to the Basis of Concord does this
    paper leave unanswered?

    8. What insights does “The Basis of Concord” give us for resolving
    the doctrinal differences in our church today?


    1. The essay states that Luther chose two ways to concord:

    1) The appeal to already existing formulas of concord, and
    2) The affirmation of new formulas of the same concord.

    Do you agree? Do you see any tensionbetween the two?

    2. In what sense can it be said that “Confession is … a direct
    consequence of the unity ofthe Church”?

    3. How is the principle of “analogia fidei” related to the unity of
    and concord in the church?


  2. Dear Pastor Juhl,

    Thanks for sharing this book and your insights with BJS readers!

    “Formula for Concord” (hereafter FOC) is actually a very important book documenting a key period in LCMS history. The essays are very helpful for understanding the years that would follow, from 1977 until the present, in the synodical discussion of church fellowship. That has not always been a happy or productive discussion, but that is often how things go in the church.

    I gave a paper at the Second Congress on the Lutheran Confessions in Skokie, Illinois in 1992, in which I pointed out a number of issues in the essay in FOC that was written by then-President, Dr. Ralph Bohlmann. Dr. Robert Preus came up to me after that lecture and said something like, “I was there at the convocation, and I don’t remember Ralph saying that!” He was concerned that I was misrepresenting Dr. Bohlmann, and that I should make public corrections at the conference, if that was the case. I pulled out my copy of FOC, and showed him the quotes in the footnotes of Bohlmann’s essay in FOC. That satisfied his concern, and I didn’t have to make corrections.

    My conclusion from that experience is that although the conservative leaders in the LCMS were together on the authority of Scripture, and other issues explained in “A Statement of Scriptural and Confessional Principles,” they were not together on the doctrine of church fellowship. And sometimes they were talking past each other inadvertently in their footnotes! I think they are still divided on that matter today.

    I think there was good fruit, in any event, from the “That We May Grow” program. Just about any congregation you visit today has copies of “That We May Grow” study guides in their libraries or offices; evidence that they were used in Bible Classes in those congregations. The studies were important for congregational lay people gaining a new appreciation for our Lutheran confessions, and for many of them, introducing them to a book (i.e., the Book of Concord) they didn’t even know about.

    Thanks for an excellent post!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  3. @Martin R. Noland #2
    Now the biggest thing I take away from your post Brother Noland was Robert Preus’ concern for academic integrity when the person in question was attempting to drive him from the Divine Call and Office he had been given. That is a Christian.

  4. @Martin R. Noland #2

    Would you happen to have that paper you delivered in 1992 in an electronic format? If so, would you be willing to send it my way? I am curious to read it.

    If my memory serves me right, perhaps it was Dr. Bohlmann’s paper that was the reason Prof. Marquart, of blessed memory, mentioned the book in class. Again, the mists of time fog my memory.

  5. May we never forget that Ralph Bohlmann and Robert
    Preus were on the same intramural bowling team
    at the St. Louis Seminary in the 1960’s. Both men were
    good bowlers and enjoyed each other’s fellowship.

  6. @Dave Likeness #5

    My first year at seminary, the then owners of the bowling alley in Woodburn, IN (where a group of us bowled every Friday night) practically begged us to bring Dr. Dean O. Wenthe (then President of my Alma Mater) to the lanes. We always wondered if Dr. Wenthe had his own ball, his own cool bowling shirt, and all the other paraphernalia. We semi-timid Sem Ones never got the courage to ask Dr. Wenthe to join us.

    To the matter! Somewhere along the line there was a falling out between the two men. I do not know what caused the event. Perhaps it’s best we leave it there.

  7. @Pastor David Juhl #6
    A local pastor of the same vintage gave me the impression that he believed Bohlman, whom he knew, to be one thing before he became SP and something else later.
    (The conflict with Preus was only part of it.)

    Apparently it’s a dangerous office and synod should be more careful of the quality of men it risks there. Power corrupts!

  8. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    I agree with Pastor Juhl in comment #6. The purpose of his post is not to cast aspersions on Dr. Bohlmann or to bring up old wounds. The purpose, as he states in the second to last paragraph of his original post, is to realize that the synod has done such things as the “Koinonia Project” from time to time, as necessary, in order to deal with the issue of internal synodical unity.

    The hindsight of thirty-five years, now, has given a bit of historical perspective to those issues of church fellowship. And this is why I am interested in the topic, which has ongoing relevance as part of the Koinonia Project.

    In 1977, when the Convocation that produced “Formula for Concord” was held, the AELC had just formed. The ALC was still in church fellowship with the LCMS, but Resolution 3-02A at the 1977 convention declared LCMS to be in a state of “fellowship in protest” with the ALC. After LCMS concerns were not addressed by the ALC, the LCMS terminated fellowship in 1981. In 1981, a poll was taken in the ALC which indicated that it wanted merger with the LCA. This started the process that led to merger of LCA, ALC, and AELC in 1987.

    So we can see clearly, now, that the church fellowship position put forth by President Bohlmann in his 1977 essay was an attempt to maintain fellowship with ALC. It was a position which said that the term “Gospel” in Augsburg Confession VII was to be understood in the “narrow sense,” so that any church which agreed with the LCMS in Article IV of the Augsburg Confession (i.e., justification by faith alone) could be in fellowship with the LCMS.

    Even after fellowship was broken in 1981, there was still hope that the LCMS could obtain fellowship with the merging synods and/or the LWF on the basis of a “narrow sense” of “Gospel” in AC VII. In 1992, when I gave my paper, there was still some hope of that, since those synods still officially agreed with AC IV.

    Then in 1999 the LWF and ELCA accepted the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification,” which rejected AC IV in favor of a new (but actually 16th century Roman Catholic) doctrine of justification. So after 1999, the proposal offered by Bohlmann in “Formula of Concord” was a moot point, at least with regard to the ELCA and LWF, because they no longer have a Lutheran understanding of the “Gospel” in the narrow sense, much less the wider sense. In short, the LCMS and the ELCA no longer agree in Article IV of the Augsburg Confession, which article is the LCMS’ definition of the “Gospel” in the narrow sense and its definition of the doctrine of justification.

    The important thing to remember is that AC VII uses the term “Gospel” in the wider sense, i.e., the doctrine of the New Testament. This is the position held by Hermann Sasse, among others, and was ably maintained by the many writings of Kurt Marquart on the subject.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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