National Lutheran News

Re-working ‘cooperation in externals’

LCMS, ELCA continue cooperative ministry projects when possible

At its 2010 national convention in Houston, delegates of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) passed Resolution 3–03 in response to the actions of the 2009 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly regarding adding lesbian and gay pastors in long-term, monogamous, same-gendered relationships to the clergy roster. This resolution directed the Praesidium of LCMS — the president and five vice-presidents — to re-evaluate cooperative ministry projects between the two church bodies.

“The ELCA and Missouri Synod have many areas of long-standing cooperation in external matters, such as providing assistance to people in need, that don’t compromise what we believe,” explained the Rev. Herbert Mueller, LCMS first vice-president. “Resolution 3–03 directed the Praesidium to provide the Synod an assessment of the situation. … While we do have voices that say ‘cut off all relationship [with the ELCA],’ neither President Harrison nor I are intending to do so at this time,” Mueller continued.

Rev. Herbert Mueller Jr.

The primary impact of this resolution will be on social service agencies, called Recognized Service Organizations (RSO) in LCMS. “We have a policy whereby RSOs are evaluated every five years to see how things are going. In response to the resolution, we have developed a series of questions to guide this evaluation,” Mueller explained.

The questions are designed to determine whether the purpose of joint work is consonant with the work of the Synod and whether the policies [of the group] are consistant with its doctrines. The questions are not intended to be a “hunting expedition,” Mueller explained. “We are simply asking whether social service agencies are on the same or a divergent path.”

RSOs are independent agencies that apply for RSO status to demonstrate synodical support of doctrines and policies.

Lutheran agencies feeling way into the future

Large Lutheran agencies that include connection to both ELCA and LCMS also will be examined. Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and, to an extent, Lutheran Disaster Response are part of the evaluative process.

“Both the ELCA and LCMS are committed to supporting ministries of care through our church bodies and institutions that are partners,” said Donald McCoid, executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations of the ELCA. “Anytime there is uncertainly, it increases stress levels,” acknowledged Mueller. “But we have good relationships” with these groups.

Dr. Donald McCoid

The training of military chaplains has been affected by the evaluations. “We aren’t doing joint training of chaplains anymore. But individuals proceed with pastoral care on a case-by-case basis,” said Mueller. Both the position of the ELCA and the changes within the military regarding “don’t ask, don’t tell” have affected this policy, he added.

The ongoing relationship between ELCA and LCMS takes place at meetings of the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation. According to McCoid, the ministry partnerships will be part of the discussion at the February 2012 meetings.

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