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LCMS convention ratifies agreements with global partners

The Rev. Scott Adle, voting delegate for the Central Illinois District of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, joins the discussion at the LCMS convention about Resolution 2-12A, regarding support for those who have a religious and moral objection to women serving in ground combat positions. Adle is pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Secor, Illinois. Photo provided by the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) gathered in St. Louis July 20-25 at America’s Center Convention Complex for its 65th Regular Convention. The convention theme was “Baptized for This Moment,” based on Acts 2:38-39.

With three quick bangs of an historic gavel, the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of LCMS, formally opened the convention, the church’s principal legislative assembly. Like every LCMS president since 1911, Harrison used the intricately carved gavel — bearing the likenesses of Martin Luther and the Rev. Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the Synod’s first president.

The gavel is made from the wood of the first log cabin built by German Lutherans who settled in Perry County, Missouri, in 1839, and helped to found the LCMS.

Renewing old relationships, celebrating new ones

Among other responsibilities, convention delegates voted overwhelmingly to encourage further discussions with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod. By a vote of 949 to 21, Harrison was encouraged to seek opportunities to continue conversations with both church bodies.

With a vote of 946 to 7, delegates voted to ratify altar and pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL). “The LCMS is in a position to help us bear witness to our nation,” said ELCL Bishop Amos Bolay, when official discussions with the church body began in December 2011.

LCMS missionaries first began witness and mercy work in Liberia in the mid-1970s; however, they were forced to flee the country during Liberia’s first civil war in 1989. After fighting ceased in the 1990s, the ELCL eventually was formed in 2009. Today, the ELCL has 137 congregations with more than 6,000 baptized and confirmed members, as well as 12 Lutheran schools.

With a vote of 965 to 3, delegates also voted to ratify altar and pulpit fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC). At the time of the declaration of fellowship in December 2010, pending convention approval, the SELC had 20 pastors serving 2,000 members in 22 parishes and teaching stations.

“It brings me special joy to greet this assembly on behalf of the brothers and sisters of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church, said SELC Bishop Vsevolod Lytkin, who addressed the convention following the vote. “The LCMS has played a very special part in the life of the Siberian church, especially in providing matters of theological education.”

Prior to the revolution in 1917, the Lutheran church in Russia had more than one million members. By 1939, nearly every Lutheran pastor in Russia had been exiled or worse and Lutheran congregations ceased to exist. It wasn’t until the 1970s that small groups of Lutherans began gathering to worship together again. In 1998, the SELC formally approached the LCMS to open a doctrinal dialogue. Subsequent meetings were held, discussion ensued, and finally, in 2010, it was determined that the two church bodies shared doctrinal unity.

“After waiting 17 years, it is a great joy that the LCMS has recognized and affirmed itself to be in fellowship with the SELC,” said the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of Church Relations for the LCMS and assistant to the Synod president. “The Church in general and the Lutheran church in particular suffered under Communist Russia. To see the Lutheran Church return from the brink of extinction in Russia prompts us to give thanks to the Lord for His goodness. The pattern of the cross and suffering turning into good and blessing is repeated here.”

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