National Lutheran News

LCMS delegates elect new president, condemn ELCA for 2009 vote

Under the theme “ONE People—Forgiven,” the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) met in convention July 10-17 in Houston. Almost 3,000 participants, including more than 1,200 clergy and lay voting delegates, elected a new president and passed resolutions concerning cooperative ministries with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), human trafficking, and the sanctity of life. LCMS conventions are held every three years.

The Rev. Matthew Harrison, executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care, was elected LCMS president July 13 on the first ballot. He received 643 votes, or 54 percent; 593 votes were needed to win. The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the synod’s current president, received 527 votes, or 45 percent. The Rev. Herbert Mueller received 8 votes, with two other candidates splitting the other six votes. Mueller was later elected the first ballot for first vice-president.

Two resolutions came before the convention pertaining to the relationships between LCMS and ELCA following the votes on the human sexuality social statement and the ordination of persons who are gay or lesbian and in publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same-gendered relationships at the 2009 ELCA churchwide assembly. With no debate, delegates adopted both resolutions.

One resolution commended to synod study a statement prepared by a task force appointed by Kieschnick titled “Theological Implications of the 2009 ELCA Decisions” and the International Lutheran Council’s (ILC) statement “Same-Gender Relationships and the Church.” The ILC is an association of 34 confessional Lutheran church bodies from six continents.

“Their overwhelming support for this effort speaks to our church’s deep love and care for people who are suffering, and our commitment to work to ease the pain and burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ.” -Rev. Gerald Kieschnick

The 10-page synod task force statement looks at the two church bodies’ differing views on the authority of Holy Scripture and the resulting difference in their understanding regarding human sexuality. “Where the Bible speaks clearly regarding matters of human values, conduct, or behavior, such teachings may not be denied or qualified, but must have continuing relevance in every era of the church,” states the report.

The Rev. Donald J. McCoid, ELCA executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations, responded to the resolution’s passage, stating that in the ELCA’s Social Statement: “Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust,” there are “differing conclusions on the basis of biblical and theological interpretation within the ELCA regarding same-gender lifelong relationships. The ELCA continues to be committed to theological and biblical conversation with all Christians on moral and ethical concerns.”

The second resolution supported efforts to bring together Lutherans “for the purpose of promoting confessional Lutheranism through the world,” noting that “many congregations and individuals have withdrawn from or are considering withdrawal from affiliation with or membership in the ELCA.”

Continuing cooperative work with the ELCA:

In a much-watched debate, delegates voted overwhelmingly to continue cooperative work with the ELCA “with theological integrity,” and asked that its leaders assess and report on the current state of cooperation in one year. Resolution 3-03, “Cooperation in Externals with Theological Integrity” was adopted with minor amendments, 961-175, following a lengthy discussion by delegates.

In response the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, said in a statement that the ELCA “affirms the cooperation in externals with The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that provides care for all people. The outreach provided by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America, Lutheran World Relief, and Lutheran Disaster Response has provided for the needs of people in our country and in places throughout the world.”

“We have a mutual commitment to serve our neighbor and respond to the cry of people in need,” he wrote. “The opportunities to provide care are and will be with us. Concerning the need to provide formal and serious discussion on issues that might develop in our cooperation, the ELCA is open to being a partner with the LCMS in discussing any concern.”

At one point in the debate, after several delegates spoke against continued common ministry with the ELCA, President-elect Harrison addressed the convention: “I promise and pledge we will make progress” on cooperative ministry challenges, but the “status quo” will not continue. Discussions will range on a continuum of responses from Thrivent to direct joint endeavors.

Following that discussion and vote, delegates voted to join the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI), a collaborative effort to mobilize the nearly eight million Lutherans in the United States to join in the battle against malaria. The ELCA is also involved in LMI.

With support of more than 97 percent of voting delegates, the convention moved to encourage the LCMS through its agencies, congregations, schools, universities and seminaries to support LMI. The action of the convention delegates also commits the LCMS to support the LMI goals of education, advocacy and fundraising to prevent and contain malaria in Africa.

“The voice of the delegates spoke loudly and clearly on this issue,” said Kieschnick. “Their overwhelming support for this effort speaks to our church’s deep love and care for people who are suffering, and our commitment to work to ease the pain and burdens of our brothers and sisters in Christ.”

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