By Adriane Dorr
More than 120 Lutheran leaders from around the world will gather in Atlanta, Ga., this fall to discuss the Reformation and its significance in the 21st century.
Hosted by the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) as well as the LCMS Office of the President, the Oct. 31-Nov. 2 conference — the first of its kind — will facilitate a discussion on the Church’s ongoing need to bear a biblical and confessional witness to the world at-large.
The conference — unprecedented in size and scope — was mandated by Resolution 3-02A, adopted by the 2010 LCMS convention. That resolution asks the CTCR to sponsor “an international model theological conference on confessional leadership in the 21st century.”
The conference, made possible by a grant from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, is intended to cultivate a greater sense of unity and faithfulness among today’s Lutheran churches.
The event’s theme — “The Lutheran Church in the 21st Century: How does it look? Why does it matter?” — will function under the umbrella of the Synod’s emphasis of Witness, Mercy, Life Together. While keynote speakers will devote time to the individual pieces of the emphasis, other church leaders from North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia will be tasked with offering brief responses.
These responses, in particular, will be helpful, according to CTCR Executive Director Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer.
“The church leaders offering responses will discuss what the Reformation means for a wide variety of churches all around the world, many with a very different heritage,” Lehenbauer said. The benefit of hearing from those outside the LCMS, he explained, “is that they will have a somewhat different and perhaps instructive take on things.”
Keynote speaker Alister McGrath of King’s College, London, “will talk about the ongoing significance of the Lutheran witness to the Gospel,” said Lehenbauer. McGrath, an English theologian of history and culture, has written widely on Luther and the Reformation and will be speaking about “Luther’s Witness and Its Continuing Value in the Global Church,” offering an “outsider’s” understanding of the Reformation’s importance in the current era.
The Rev. Dr. Jobst Schoene of Berlin, Germany, retired bishop of the Selbständige Evangelisch–Lutherische Kirche (Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church), an LCMS partner church, will speak on “Lutheran Koinonia (Life Together) Today.” Schoene will “address the big question of how Lutherans and other Christians relate to one another and what our theology has to say about that,” noted the Rev. Larry Vogel, CTCR associate director.
Vogel also noted that LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison will then tackle the topic of “Lutheran Diakonia (Mercy) Today.” Harrison will shed light on how “Lutherans care for those in need; that is, how we respond to God’s call to care for others, beginning with the household of faith,” explained Vogel.
The closing session of the conference will address present-day challenges and opportunities as Lutheran churches seek to provide a faithful, vibrant witness to Christ. Dr. Gemechis Buba, an Ethiopian theologian now directing mission efforts in the North American Lutheran Church, will speak, followed by five international respondents.
While the conference is an invitation-only event, interested LCMS pastors and laypeople may receive daily news briefs and updates via LCMS social media, video and KFUO Radio (www.kfuo.org).
The CTCR also will be posting conference information on its website at www.lcms.org/ctcr.
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted Aug. 29, 2012