Representatives of The American Association of Lutheran Churches (AALC) and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) have unanimously recommended that the two church bodies proceed toward altar and pulpit fellowship.
Their recommendation came July 13-14 in St. Louis during the fourth in a series of formal discussions that began last year. If approved by the theology-doctrine commissions of the respective church bodies, the recommendation will go to the AALC and LCMS national conventions in 2007.
“We are grateful to God for this godly opportunity to work together toward the expression of our common confession and witness to Christ, and we look forward to the prospect of altar and pulpit fellowship with the Missouri Synod,” said Rev. Thomas Aadland, AALC presiding pastor.
LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick added, “I pray that this important step in the process of working toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, one of the important objectives of our Synod, will be a genuine blessing to both the AALC and the LCMS, strengthening the Gospel witness of both.”
Both Aadland and Kieschnick attended the sessions. Other AALC representatives were Rev. Gregory Gerendas, administrative assistant; Rev. Franklin Hays, president of the AALC’s American Lutheran Theological Seminary; and Rev. Darrel Deuel, former chairperson of the Commission on Doctrine and Church Relations. The LCMS was represented by Rev. William Diekelman, first vice president; Rev. Raymond Hartwig, secretary; Dr. Samuel Nafzger, executive director of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations; and Dr. Charles Arand, professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
The latest meeting focused on church fellowship practices, including discussions of the practice of close(d) communion. Previous sessions covered the church bodies’ positions on the church and ministry, lay ministry, charismatic concerns, inter-Christian relations, piety and pietism, and the role of women in the church. Also discussed at length were each church body’s understandings of the authority of Scripture and the binding nature of subscription to the writings in The Book of Concord.
“How good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters in Christ dwell in unity,” said CTCR Executive Director Nafzger, echoing the words of Psalm 133. He said President Kieschnick will forward the recommendation to the CTCR for its formal review and also will share it with LCMS partner churches for their input. Following those steps, the CTCR will make its recommendation to the LCMS convention next July.
Nafzger explained that altar and pulpit fellowship is not a merger. Each church body remains autonomous, but the agreement permits members of one church body to commune at the other’s altars, pastors can exchange pulpits, and members may easily transfer between congregations.
With national offices in Minneapolis, the AALC has 14,000 members in 79 congregations — most of which chose not to join the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America when it was formed in 1987. The LCMS has 2.5 million members in 6,150 congregations.
Posted July 18, 2006