National Lutheran News

NALC and LCMS leaders discuss mutual interests

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) invited leaders of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) to an initial discussion about the two Lutheran church bodies December 15-16, 2011, in St. Louis. Leaders from the two bodies discussed theological and ecumenical issues facing each church body, as well as potential areas of cooperative work.

The NALC, which organized in August 2010 in Columbus, Ohio, had at that time committed itself in its formal ecumenical statement to meetings with the LCMS. It currently has more than 300 congregations and 100,000 baptized members.

From left, the Rev. John Pless, professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana; the Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee, president of Lutheran Church—Canada; Bishop John Bradosky of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC); and the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), take part in the dialogue in mid-December in St. Louis. Photo: LCMS Communications/Joe Isenhower Jr.

CTCR’s Vogel stressed, “We are trying to affirm one another in the areas [of shared perspective]. We have things that divide us as well, … but we can be cordial as we allow an organic relationship to develop.”

At the December meeting, the NALC was represented by Bishop John Bradosky; Emeritus Bishop Paull Spring; Dr. James Nestingen, retired seminary professor; the Rev. David Wendel, NALC ministry coordinator; and the Rev. Mark Chavez, NALC general secretary. LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison; Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of church relations and assistant to the LCMS President; the Rev. John Pless, director of field education and assistant professor in Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Dr. Joel D. Lehenbauer, executive director of the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR); and the Rev. Larry M. Vogel, associate executive director of CTCR, were the LCMS representatives. President Robert Bugbee of the Lutheran Church—Canada attended as a formal observer.

“The NALC fervently desires to take the Scriptures and the Lutheran confession seriously,” Harrison said in a statement about the meeting. “These men are creedal Christians who share our own convictions on fundamental issues of life and sexuality. We do have real differences and they will not be easily overcome. But the outcome is the Lord’s.”

“Our dialog transcended all of our hopes and expectations,” added Bradosky. “The level of openness, honesty, and trust evident in our conversations was commensurate with those whose relationship had spanned years. That experience may be based on the fact that our common commitment to biblical authority and theological integrity has spanned many years to our formal meeting.”

Committed to prayer

CTCR’s Vogel stressed, “We are trying to affirm one another in the areas [of shared perspective]. We have things that divide us as well, … but we can be cordial as we allow an organic relationship to develop.”

The Rev. Mark Chavez agreed that the two bodies share much in common. “With the exception of the ordination of women and [the practice of] closed communion, we have much in common,” he explained to Metro Lutheran. “They reached out to us a few years ago, when the Rev. Kieschnick was still president,” Chavez said, “and we have been supportive of each other, especially in prayer, for years.”

Leaders of the two church bodies will meet again May 7-8, 2012, in Columbus, Ohio. Future meetings will include further discussions about social ministry joint opportunities and matters of agreement and disagreement between the church bodies.

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