In a “Letter to the Church” released Monday, July 18, LCMS President Dr. Matthew C. Harrison announced that, beginning in 2012, the Synod will no longer co-sponsor its training conferences for military chaplains with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
The decision, which Harrison said was not made lightly, was based on input from the Synod’s Ministry to the Armed Forces committee and from active- and reserve-duty LCMS chaplains.
It ends a cooperative ministry that began in 1941 between the LCMS and two other Lutheran church bodies at that time — The American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America. Those two denominations joined the former Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to form the ELCA in 1988, and the cooperative arrangement continued, with some modifications.
“Today, like two ships at sea sailing apart on different compass headings, the ELCA and the LCMS have lost sight of each other,” Harrison writes in the letter. “The two churches are pursuing different courses in our ministries to military members. The doctrinal differences and tensions have been exacerbated by the position of the ELCA on same-sex unions and the imminent repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”
Harrison adds that the ELCA “has made its direction clear” by agreeing to hold joint denominational training conferences for military chaplains with the Episcopal Church in the USA, beginning in 2012.
Lutheran chaplains, he said, “will continue to minister to all Lutherans in uniform and exercise proper pastoral discretion on a case-by-case basis in the administration of Word and Sacrament ministry, taking into account the individual circumstances of each case.
“Our chaplains will continue to follow the Military Chaplain guidelines as approved by the Synod. While we recognize the service of ELCA personnel, we can no longer commend our LCMS military personnel to ELCA chaplains without increasing and grave reservations.”
To read the entire letter, click here.
Posted July 18, 2011