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.

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