Twenty-one representatives from The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) met in Florida Dec. 4–5, 2023, to continue the three church bodies’ annual informal discussions. The 2023 meeting was their 11th time to meet in person. Like previous meetings, it was an opportunity to compare notes on the challenges that all three synods face and to talk about doctrinal points on which they agree and disagree — without any indication that they will come back into fellowship soon.
This year there was fruitful discussion about the cultural challenges the three church bodies face in the U.S. and Canada. All three synods have or are planning statements on issues like critical theory and gender identity. These are matters where all three speak in similar ways as they uphold scriptural principles.
There also was continued discussion about the doctrine of the Holy Ministry. The LCMS, ELS and WELS have practices that are very similar, but there have been differences in how they talk about the doctrine. They are trying to understand each other and to evaluate the nature of these differences.
Plans are being made to meet again in December 2024 and to distribute a fuller report about their meetings in 2025. There was some discussion about the possibility of holding free conferences to share more fully what they have learned in these meetings.
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison described the recent meeting as “salutary,” pointing to “overwhelming agreement on most of the articles of the faith” while noting that questions of church and ministry, prayer fellowship and the role of women continue to be “challenging.”
Harrison continued: “I have been very heartened that our WELS and ELS brothers have recognized that serious doctrinal discipline exists in the LCMS. They have also expressed deep appreciation for our LCMS struggle against the theology and detrimental influence of the liberal era prior to and into the Seminex event. … We are talking. We know each other, respect each other, question each other, support each other and pray for each other. Lord have mercy upon us.”
All three presidents were recently re-elected: Harrison to a three-year term in 2023, ELS President Rev. Glenn Obenberger to a four-year term in 2022 and WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder to a four-year term in 2023.
Posted Jan. 26, 2024