HOUSTON – Noting the diverse histories of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the secretary of the ELCA called for continued conversations between leaders of the two Lutheran church bodies.
Speaking to the LCMS 63rd Regular Convention on July 19, Rev. Lowell G. Almen, who will retire later this year after 20 years as ELCA secretary, said the different histories “shape the distinctive characteristics of the ELCA and the LCMS.”
“Therefore, we need to talk. We need to listen. We need to seek understanding,” he told the delegates.
The theme of the July 14-19 convention is “One Message—Christ! His Love is Here for You!”
Almen greeted the delegates on behalf of Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, the ELCA’s 4.8 million members and the more than 10,000 ELCA congregations in the United States and Caribbean.
When the ELCA was formed in 1988, the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A. ceased to exist, Almen said. He said he was “convinced of the need for a systematic, continuing point of contact between leaders of the ELCA and LCMS.” Almen said he urged the establishment of the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation (CLC), of which he has been part of for two decades. The CLC brings together leaders of both churches, generally twice a year and alternates meetings in St. Louis and Chicago, headquarters cities of the LCMS and ELCA, respectively.
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly, that church’s highest legislative authority, meets Aug. 6-11 in Chicago. Almen shared a portion of his report to that assembly with Synod convention delegates.
“I have worked hard in trying to keep as many doors and windows as open as possible between the ELCA and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The task has not been easy, and at times the prospects have seemed discouraging. Yet I remain convinced that, for the sake of clear Lutheran witness in this land, these two church bodies need to work together in as many ways as possible now and in the years to come,” Almen wrote.
“We need to do so not just for ourselves, but we need to do so for the sake of our children, our grandchildren and our great grandchildren,” he said.
He told the delegates of areas of cooperation that “we can treasure together” Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America, and the Inter-Lutheran Coordination Committee for Ministry in Chaplaincy, Pastoral Counseling and Clinical Education.
Almen noted the two churches’ cooperation in Lutheran military chaplaincy. Support and recruitment of military chaplains is essential, he said, adding that the ELCA has lost one-fourth of its active-duty military chaplains in the past three years to retirement.
“Will we as Lutherans leave the pastoral care of our members in the armed forces only to religious groups who have no understanding or appreciation of our heritage? I certainly hope not,” he told the convention. Almen asked for prayers for chaplaincy leaders and chaplains in both churches, some of whom serve literally on the front lines in war zones.
“May God continue to bless our faithful proclamation of the Gospel throughout our churches. We confess together that ‘God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him … Beloved since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another,’” he concluded.