By Adriane Dorr
Fraternal discussions between representatives of the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod continued with a second meeting July 19-20 at the NALC headquarters in Hilliard, Ohio.
The NALC is, according to its website, “a fast-growing Christian church body in the Lutheran tradition, uniting more than 125,000 Lutherans in more than 300 congregations across North America.” Nearly all of those congregations are former members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that left the Chicago-based church body because of its positions on human sexuality.
The first meeting between the NALC and the LCMS, which included representatives of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), took place last December in St. Louis. At that meeting, the participants focused on overarching theological and ecumenical concerns. The second meeting built on those initial discussions, ranging in topic from theological education and disaster relief to abortion and this spring’s Health and Human Services’ birth-control mandate.
The dialogue has been “cordial and warm,” according to LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) Executive Director Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, who believes the success of the meetings is due, in part, to an “open willingness from both sides to let the other define itself rather than making assumptions.”
Besides Lehenbauer, other LCMS representatives in the dialogue are the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of LCMS Church Relations; the Rev. John T. Pless, assistant professor of Pastoral Ministry and Missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; and the Rev. Larry Vogel, CTCR associate director. Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) is represented by its president, the Rev. Dr. Robert Bugbee.
NALC representatives include Bishop John Bradosky; Bishop Emeritus Paull Spring; the Rev. Dr. James Nestingen, former professor at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.; the Rev. David Wendel, NALC assistant to the bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism; and the Rev. Mark Chavez, NALC general secretary.
While altar and pulpit fellowship is not a primary expectation for the dialogue, spokespersons from both church bodies acknowledged the potential for a closer working relationship in various ways, including a mutual desire to show mercy to those who are suffering around the globe. Together, the two churches could “engage in cooperation in externals, such as Lutheran Malaria Initiative efforts as well as LCMS mercy work in different areas around the world,” according to Vogel.
Representatives also drafted a working agreement between the LCMS, NALC and LCC. Although still a document in process, the agreement, as written, would allow for continued discussion “to consider ways by which our churches may work together to make Christ known, to pray for one another and to strengthen the Lutheran witness by word and deed in the Church and community.”
The next meeting — which will allow for dialogue regarding the draft of the working agreement — will take place in December at Concordia Theological Seminary and will highlight “The Relationship between the Gospel and the Scriptures.” By fall 2014, the church bodies intend to have completed seven meetings, varying in location and topic.
Adriane Dorr is managing editor of The Lutheran Witness.
Posted Aug. 29, 2012