By Linda C. Hoops
The LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) hopes to hold a series of congregational workshops on Christian stewardship of the environment in conjunction with its adoption of a new report on the topic.
The commission gave final approval to a 20-page version and a 150-page version of the report, “Together with All Creatures: Caring for God’s Living Earth” at its April 22-24 meeting. The report was requested by the 2007 Synod convention.
Pending final approval of the Synod’s budget by the LCMS Board of Directors at its May meeting, the CTCR will use a block grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Foundation to develop a pilot program for congregational workshops titled “Caring for God’s Creation.” The workshops are designed to help participating congregations incorporate the care of creation into their worship, stewardship, evangelism, and community service programs.
Participants would receive the 20-page booklet “Together With All Creatures” and a kit of related resources (worship materials, project ideas, and multi-media study materials for children, youth, and adults) for congregational use.
“Caring for God’s Creation” also will be the theme of the CTCR’s booth at this summer’s LCMS National Youth Gathering in New Orleans, where the booklet version of the report, which includes colorful illustrations and practical “how-to” tips, will be distributed.
The large document (which also includes the text of the smaller document) will be mailed to all church workers and congregations in late summer. Congregations and schools will be able to order both versions from Concordia Publishing House for use in various educational settings.
The report seeks to answer the question: “How do we see ourselves in relation to the earth and all its creatures?” and provides three responses:
- We best care for God’s earth when we embrace our “creatureliness.”
- We best care for God’s earth when we delight in our creaturely connections.
- We best care for God’s earth when we tend it with creaturely humility.
It concludes that “we live as Christians who embrace our calling as human creatures to care for the earth in the certain hope that the new creation in Christ will be completed by the Holy Spirit.”
In other action, the CTCR adopted an overture to be submitted to the 2010 Synod convention recommending a revision to the LCMS Bylaws that would streamline the procedure for declaring altar and pulpit fellowship with “small, emerging confessional Lutheran church bodies.”
The current procedures, the overture states, “are designed to address the circumstance of an established church body seeking altar and pulpit fellowship with the Synod,” and require “a time-consuming, costly, and often unwieldy process” to establish fellowship with such church bodies.
The resolution recommends that the CTCR’s document “Church Relations in the 21st Century,” which addresses the issue, be commended by the Synod for use by the Synod president in determining the possibility of establishing fellowship with small, formative, or emerging confessional churches “where theological discussions have provided convincing evidence that the LCMS is in doctrinal agreement with the church in question.”
The revision to the Bylaw states that “recognition may be declared by the president of the Synod, only after consultation with the Praesidium and approval by the CTCR, subject to the endorsement of the subsequent Synod convention.”
The commission heard a report from an April 8 meeting at which a proposed “theological dialogue” between the Missouri Synod and the newly formed Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) was discussed. LCMS Director of Church Relations Samuel Nafzger, CTCR Executive Director Joel Lehenbauer, and CTCR Associate Director Larry Vogel met with two bishops of the ACNA church body. The dialogue had been requested by ACNA’s presiding bishop, Archbishop Robert Duncan.
According to its Web site (http://anglicanchurch.net/), the church body “represents the reuniting of orthodox Anglicans who have been squeezed out of the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada by successive changes to historic Christian teaching and Anglican practice.” With 100,000 Anglicans in 700 parishes, ACNA was formally recognized as a “province-in-formation” in April 2009 by leaders of Anglican churches representing 70 percent of active Anglicans globally. It is based in Pennsylvania.
The goal of the dialogue, according to Lehenbauer, “would not be altar and pulpit fellowship, but a desire to affirm similarities of historical and contemporary concerns in our churches and the hope of being able to declare shared understandings regarding important areas of Christian teaching and life today.”
Four dialogues at six-month intervals are envisioned, with the first scheduled for Nov. 10-11 at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. The two churches will alternate hosting the dialogues at one of their seminaries. Initial plans are for each church body to send four to six representatives, including at least one lay representative, to the meetings. Guest speakers also will be invited and opportunities will be sought for interaction with seminary students and faculty.
The CTCR also recognized the service of seven of its 16 voting members who are not eligible for re-election or re-appointment in the next triennium/quadrennium and who are completing at least nine years of consecutive service. They are Chairman Dr. Loren Kramer, Vice-Chairman Dr. Paul Raabe, Secretary Peter Hessler, Committee Chairmen Dr. Chuck Arand and Dr. Orville Walz, Dr. Shirley Bergman (the first woman to serve on the CTCR), and Dr. Ken Palmreuter.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and a member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted May 5, 2010