By Cheryl Magness
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) meets four times per year to carry out its duties of providing guidance to the Synod in matters of theology and church relations.
At its April 26–28 meeting, held at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind. (CTSFW), the CTCR adopted a new report on the spiritual benefits of individual confession and absolution for both laity and — especially — pastors.
The report was drafted in response to LCMS Res. 4-13, “To Encourage Confession and Absolution for Pastors,” adopted at the 2013 LCMS convention. Res. 4-13 builds on Res. 2-07A, adopted in 2007 to encourage “both laity and pastors … to make greater use of individual confession and absolution.”
2013 Res. 4-13 specifically reassures pastors that “the Synod takes very seriously [their] spiritual welfare,” and for this reason invites and encourages them “to avail themselves of private absolution” when they feel a need to do so.
Accordingly, Res. 4-13 called on the CTCR to “provide a document that sets forth our church’s teaching on confession and absolution and offers positive guidance to pastors and congregations in their exercise of the Office of the Keys.”
The document is now available for free download on lcms.org/ctcr.
It contains three parts:
Part One, “Foundations,” explores the scriptural, confessional and historical underpinnings of the LCMS’s understanding of confession and absolution based on Scripture and the Lutheran confessions, and considers some of the challenges to promoting more widespread practice of individual confession and absolution.
Part Two, “Helping the Pastor,” observes that “any restoration of private confession must begin with pastors, whose office is centered in proclaiming Christ and His forgiveness,” and goes on to offer suggestions aimed at supporting the pastor who wishes to seek out and make use of it.
Part Three, “Extending the Gift to the Congregation,” includes suggestions for making private confession and absolution part of a congregation’s regular practice and outlines the benefits for the pastor, the congregation and their relationship to one another.
Speaking about the new report, the Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, executive director of the CTCR, said:
“The very same Gospel is given and delivered through all of God’s precious means of grace — Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the preaching, teaching and hearing of God’s forgiving and life-giving Word.
“At the same time, as the report itself seeks to explain and emphasize, ‘private confession and absolution may be a considerable aid to all Christians, and especially useful to pastors, who share in the burdens of their people and who are susceptible to unique temptations and discouragement.’ ”
Also at its April meeting, the CTCR re-appointed Lehenbauer to another five-year term as CTCR executive director. Lehenbauer has served on the executive staff of the CTCR since 1991 and as executive director since since 2008.
Commenting on Lehenbauer’s re-appointment, CTCR chairman and president of CTSFW Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast Jr. said:
“Dr. Lehenbauer’s exemplary service as executive director of the CTCR has truly blessed the commission itself and the larger Synod. It was a joy for the commission unanimously to renew his appointment, and we look forward to Dr. Lehenbauer’s leadership as we continue faithfully to fulfill the mission the Synod has entrusted to us.”
Read report: “Confession and Absolution”
Posted July 20, 2018