“The Congregation’s Ministry and Mission: Who’s in Charge Here?” will be the theme for the Synod’s second “model theological conference,” set for Aug. 23-25 in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) at its Dec. 2-4 meeting in St. Louis approved plans for the conference, which were prepared by a joint committee of the CTCR and the Council of Presidents (COP). The COP approved the plans at its Nov. 16-18 meeting in Dallas.
The 2004 Synod convention urged the joint committee to continue planning the sort of theological conferences that were held throughout the Synod in the two years that began with a “model” conference in August 2002, also in Scottsdale. The convention added encouragement that such conferences be open not only to pastors, but also to laypeople.
The convention’s resolution included a list of issues on which there is not complete agreement in the Synod. CTCR Executive Director Samuel H. Nafzger said that the theme of the 2005 conference was developed from one of those: “the relationship between the pastoral office and the priesthood of all believers.”
The 2005 conference will be funded by a $170,000 allotment from a $1.4 million grant given to the Synod in 2004 by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. The agenda will include speakers, discussion panels, round-table discussions among the participants, worship, Bible study, and confession and forgiveness, according to the plan prepared by the joint committee.
The plans say that each of the Synod’s 35 districts will be encouraged to send its president and three to five others — at least one pastor, one layperson, and one commissioned minister. Those attending are then to serve as the planning committee for district theological conferences.
Synod President Gerald Kieschnick called for such conferences Synodwide, the 2004 convention noted, “for the purpose of discussing issues of concern and disagreement in the LCMS as a way of promoting greater unity, trust, and harmony in the Synod.”
The convention added that the first model conference began a process that spread to every LCMS district “whereby honest and fraternal discussion on important and sensitive issues took place.” It said that reports “indicated that participants greatly appreciated the opportunity to discuss these issues and benefited in significant ways from the dialogue that took place.”
In other business at its Dec. 2-4 meeting, the CTCR responded to a letter of dissent from a pastor regarding 2001 Synod convention Res. 3-08B, which authorized districts to continue training “lay deacons” and rescinded a 1995 resolution that required licensed laymen to enter a seminary program leading to ordination.
The pastor wrote that his dissent “concerns the continued endorsement by the Synod of so-called ‘lay ministers’ or ‘lay deacons’ preaching, teaching, and administering the sacraments without a ‘regular call’ (Augsburg Confession and Apology Article XIV).” He added, “Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession seems quite clear and leaves no room for exceptions to this doctrine.”
The CTCR responded, “The LCMS has understood that the Lutheran Confessions (Treatise 67-68, Tappert 331) recognize that there may be situations where those who are not called and ordained may carry out pastoral functions. The Commission is aware that discussion will and needs to continue in the Synod regarding the nature of these exceptions.”
The commission also:
- placed on its agenda a series of questions from President Kieschnick regarding the implications of an LCMS congregation or an individual member declaring a state of confessional protest — in statu confessionis — against the Synod. As a result of some Synod members considering such declarations, the COP discussed the matter at its Dallas meeting. The Synod’s Praesidium encouraged Kieschnick to take the questions to the CTCR.
- re-elected Dr. Loren Kramer as CTCR chairman; elected Dr. Paul Raabe, professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, vice chairman; and re-elected attorney Peter Hessler of Cleveland, secretary. The commission also re-elected committee chairmen Dr. David Scaer, Dr. David Lumpp, and Donald Brosz.
- received a report from Nafzger on discussions between LCMS leaders and President Paul Fynn of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana following the African church’s decision to join the Lutheran World Federation this year. The ELCG is a partner church of the Missouri Synod.
Posted Dec. 23, 2004