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Old 4th May 2004, 01:09 PM
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ELCA vs. Missouri Synod - Major Differences?

I have two Lutheran Churches in my area. One belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the other belongs to the Missouri Synod. I'm curious, do they essentially believe the same thing? Are their differences just a conservative/liberal split in their thoughts on ecclesiology, discipline or other theological matters? Are Lutherans bothered by this division?

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Old 4th May 2004, 01:14 PM
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ELCA

Q. What are the main differences between the Missouri Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)?

A. The three main areas of difference between the LCMS and the ELCA are the following:

1. The doctrine and authority of Scripture. The LCMS believes that the Bible is without error in all that it says. The ELCA avoids making such statements, holding that Scripture is not necessarily always accurate on such matters as history and science. Differences between the LCMS and the ELCA on the authority of Scripture also help to explain why the ELCA ordains women to the pastoral office, while the LCMS does not, and why the LCMS unequivocally rejects homosexual behavior as contrary to God's will, while the ELCA has yet to take an official stand on this issue.

2. Subscription to the Lutheran confessions. The LCMS binds itself to all the doctrinal content of the Lutheran confessional writings of the 16th century. The ELCA binds itself only to the central teachings of the confessions and not to their entire doctrinal content.

3. The level of agreement necessary to join together in one church body. While the LCMS believes that the Bible requires agreement in all that the Bible teaches, the ELCA holds that disagreement in some matters of doctrine, such as the mode of Christ's presence in Holy Communion, do not prohibit church fellowship.
__________________
"This doctrine is what makes Christianity Christianity. You've got to get across that the righteousness that saves isn't a change in the human heart, it's a declared sentence, "I declare you innocent." And we say, "But I'm not innocent, I'm guilty as sin!" But the judge says, "I know, but I didn't say that, I said I declared you innocent." That's what Christianity is. It's a declaration of innocence based on another's righteousness, and reckoned to you as if it were yours." Rod Rosenbladt
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  #3  
Old 4th May 2004, 01:15 PM
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Theology of the ELCA

Q. What has The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod (LCMS) stated officially about its differences with the theological position of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)?

A. During its 1998 convention, the LCMS adopted a resolution that provides a helpful summary of some of the key differences between our two church bodies, particularly as these differences have to do with ecumenical decision and relations. Here is that resolution:

To Express Deep Regret and Profound Disagreement with ELCA Actions RESOLUTION 3-08A Adopted in Convention by The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, July 1998

Preamble

In 1997 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted A Formula of Agreement which formally declared full communion with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ based on what is referred to as "a fundamental doctrinal consensus" (A Formula of Agreement, p. 19).

Although this document acknowledges that "it has not been possible to reconcile the [Lutheran and Reformed] Confessional formulations from the sixteenth century" concerning the presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, it contends that "these enduring differences" can be regarded "as acceptable diversities" and should therefore not be regarded as "church-dividing, but are complementary" (p. 20). The Lutheran Confessions, however, reject the Reformed position on the presence of Christ in the Sacrament (FC Ep. VII, 21-42; FC SD VII, 111-28), and they clearly affirm what the Scriptures teach, namely: "We believe, teach, and confess that in the Holy Supper the body and blood of Christ are truly and essentially present and are truly distributed and received with the bread and wine. We believe, teach, and confess that the words of the testament of Christ are to be understood in no other way than in their literal sense, and not as though the bread symbolized the absent body and the wine the absent blood of Christ, but that because of the sacramental union they are truly the body and blood of Christ" (FC Ep VII, 6-7).

The ELCA in 1997 also formally accepted the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. The purpose of this statement is "to show that on the basis of their dialogue the subscribing Lutheran churches and the Roman Catholic Church are now able to articulate a common understanding of our justification by God's grace through faith in Christ" (p. 2). While recognizing that this common understanding "does not cover all that either church teaches about justification," this statement declares that "the remaining differences in its explication are no longer the occasion for doctrinal condemnation" (p. 2). However, these "differences in ... explication" as articulated in this statement itself have to do with such critically important issues as the following:

The centrality of the doctrine of justification in its relationship to all other teachings of Scripture (para. 18)
The Roman Catholic view "that persons 'cooperate' in preparing for and accepting justification by consenting to God's justifying action" (para. 20)
The relationship between the Lutheran understanding that "the sinner is granted righteousness before God in Christ through the declaration of forgiveness" and the Roman Catholic emphasis on "the renewal of the interior person through the reception of grace imparted as a gift to the believer" (para. 23-24)
The precise role of faith in justification; i.e., the significance of the difference in the Lutheran understanding that "God justifies sinners in faith alone (sola fide)" and the Roman Catholic understanding which only "sees faith as fundamental in justification" (para. 26-27)
The compatibility of the Lutheran understanding of "the Christian as a being 'at the same time righteous and sinner' " and the Roman Catholic view that the inclination toward sin in the justified Christian is not really "sin in the authentic sense" (para. 30).
It is clear that Roman Catholics and Lutherans have not yet resolved substantive points of disagreement over the doctrine of justification.Whereas, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's actions--i.e., the declaration of full communion with three Reformed church bodies while recognizing continuing disagreements between them regarding the understanding of the bodily presence of Christ in the Sacrament of the Altar; and also its adoption of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which claims a common understanding between Lutherans and Roman Catholics on the sinner's justification by God's grace through faith in Christ in spite of continuing lack of agreement between them on critically important aspects of the doctrine of justification--have significant implications for all Lutherans and other Christians in the United States and around the world; and

Whereas, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod desires to remain faithful to its commitment to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions as stated in Article II of its Constitution, even while striving to resolve differences in doctrine with other church bodies; therefore be it

Resolved, That in faithfulness to God's Word and the Lutheran Confessions, and motivated by our love and concern for the people and pastors of the ELCA, we express our deep regret and profound disagreement with these actions taken by the ELCA; and be it further

Resolved, That we encourage all members of the LCMS to commit themselves to engage in theological discussions with the members of the ELCA; and be it further

Resolved, That the LCMS support its President as he continues to work together with the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA in arranging for discussions of these issues between representatives of our two church bodies; and be it further

Resolved, That these discussions address such theological issues as the doctrine of justification, the Lord's Supper, the nature of Lutheran identity, and the appropriate relationships with churches of other theological traditions in today's confusing and changing ecclesiastical landscape; and be it finally

Resolved, That the CTCR be asked to prepare an evaluation of the ELCA/Reformed A Formula of Agreement and the Lutheran/Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification for use in discussing these issues throughout the Synod.
__________________
"This doctrine is what makes Christianity Christianity. You've got to get across that the righteousness that saves isn't a change in the human heart, it's a declared sentence, "I declare you innocent." And we say, "But I'm not innocent, I'm guilty as sin!" But the judge says, "I know, but I didn't say that, I said I declared you innocent." That's what Christianity is. It's a declaration of innocence based on another's righteousness, and reckoned to you as if it were yours." Rod Rosenbladt
LUTHERAN LIBERTARIAN

Last edited by ChiRho; 4th May 2004 at 01:22 PM.
  #4  
Old 4th May 2004, 01:16 PM
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Communing at non-LCMS Church

Q. Is it wrong for a member of an LCMS congregation to receive Holy Communion at an ELCA church? Is it wrong for an ELCA member to receive Holy Communion at an LCMS church?

A. The LCMS practices "close communion," which is summarized as follows by the Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations: In keeping with the principle that the celebration and reception of the Lord's Supper is a confession of the unity of faith, while at the same time recognizing that there will be instances when sensitive pastoral care needs to be exercised, the Synod has established an official practice requiring "that pastors and congregations of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, except in situations of emergency and in special cases of pastoral care, commune individuals of only those synods which are now in fellowship with us." By following this practice whereby only those individuals who are members of the Synod or of a church body with which the Synod is in altar and pulpit fellowship are ordinarily communed, pastors and congregations preserve the integrity of their witness to the gospel of Christ as it is revealed in the Scriptures and confessed in the Lutheran confessional writings.

The Synod has not attempted to define precisely what constitutes "special cases of pastoral care," but has entrusted to its pastors and congregations the responsibility to make judgments in individual cases about the propriety of communing non-LCMS Christians.

With regard to LCMS members communing at non-LCMS altars, the CTCR says the following in its report on the "Theology and Practice of the Lord's Supper":

"In accordance with the confessional nature of participation in the Lord's supper, and in agreement with Lutheranism's historic position, it is inappropriate to attend the Lord's Supper at non-Lutheran altars. Since participation in Holy Communion, Scripturally and confessionally understood, entails agreement in the Gospel and all its articles, it would not be appropriate to attend the Lord's supper in a church with which such agreement is not shared."
__________________
"This doctrine is what makes Christianity Christianity. You've got to get across that the righteousness that saves isn't a change in the human heart, it's a declared sentence, "I declare you innocent." And we say, "But I'm not innocent, I'm guilty as sin!" But the judge says, "I know, but I didn't say that, I said I declared you innocent." That's what Christianity is. It's a declaration of innocence based on another's righteousness, and reckoned to you as if it were yours." Rod Rosenbladt
LUTHERAN LIBERTARIAN
  #5  
Old 4th May 2004, 01:21 PM
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Are Lutherans bothered by this division?
I am bothered as much by this split as I am with the splits between us and the Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Moravians, WELS, etc. Who isn't bothered by a split in the body??

I'm curious, do they essentially believe the same thing? Are their differences just a conservative/liberal split in their thoughts on ecclesiology, discipline or other theological matters?
Mostly we are in full agreement, except for the closed communion vs ecumenicalism and the Woman pastor thing. We all confess the same things for the most part.

The only thing I don't like is that the LCMS isn't that friendly to the ELCA, and by this I will cite an example. Here in my town, we have over eight ELCA congregations and two or three LCMS congregations. Now, the ELCA supports the 'Lutheran Campus Ministries' here in Fresno. Now, rather than the LCMS helping to claim a greatly seccularized and lost population, they start thier own group, (a lot smaller because of their resources). This really ticks me off, instead of combining our resources, knowledge and God given talents, to win people to Christ, we seperate ourselves over almost nothing.


:: breathe, inhale, exhale, ::

-James
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  #6  
Old 4th May 2004, 01:28 PM
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This really ticks me off, instead of combining our resources, knowledge and God given talents, to win people to Christ, we seperate ourselves over almost nothing.

:: breathe, inhale, exhale, ::
Not intending for your head to pop off! But our differences are not "almost nothing." We have real differences. You are my Christian brother, but our differences are more than mere hair splitting.

Pax Christi,

ChiRho
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"This doctrine is what makes Christianity Christianity. You've got to get across that the righteousness that saves isn't a change in the human heart, it's a declared sentence, "I declare you innocent." And we say, "But I'm not innocent, I'm guilty as sin!" But the judge says, "I know, but I didn't say that, I said I declared you innocent." That's what Christianity is. It's a declaration of innocence based on another's righteousness, and reckoned to you as if it were yours." Rod Rosenbladt
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Old 4th May 2004, 01:41 PM
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I'll go back to the original question. Of course, Lutherans are upset by the divisions that exist within our own tradition. The differences between the ELCA and the LCMS are major. We are living in very different worlds or may I say centuries? Sadly, the LCMS has reacted to the developments of modernity by crawling back further into the past and into a rigidity that hasn't always characterized them. I personally believe that some of their theological developments reflect characteristics of their ethnic origin (rigid German thought and approaches to life) and perhaps to some dysfunction that has existed at the top. Just my thoughts and observations, though.
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Old 4th May 2004, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Willy
I'll go back to the original question. Of course, Lutherans are upset by the divisions that exist within our own tradition. The differences between the ELCA and the LCMS are major. We are living in very different worlds or may I say centuries? Sadly, the LCMS has reacted to the developments of modernity by crawling back further into the past and into a rigidity that hasn't always characterized them. I personally believe that some of their theological developments reflect characteristics of their ethnic origin (rigid German thought and approaches to life) and perhaps to some dysfunction that has existed at the top. Just my thoughts and observations, though.
At the advice of Luthers Rose, I am going to take a break from this and respond later, so I do not post something I will regret. Willy is so fortunate.

Pax Christi,

ChiRho
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"This doctrine is what makes Christianity Christianity. You've got to get across that the righteousness that saves isn't a change in the human heart, it's a declared sentence, "I declare you innocent." And we say, "But I'm not innocent, I'm guilty as sin!" But the judge says, "I know, but I didn't say that, I said I declared you innocent." That's what Christianity is. It's a declaration of innocence based on another's righteousness, and reckoned to you as if it were yours." Rod Rosenbladt
LUTHERAN LIBERTARIAN
  #9  
Old 4th May 2004, 01:51 PM
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You are my Christian brother, but our differences are more than mere hair splitting.
Our differnces are small, The ELCA verses LCMS is a larger problem, yet if we come down this personal, we do have a lot in common doctrinally speaking.

Now, when it comes to "Lutheran Campus Ministries", a program with a evangelistic/sustaining motive, even the congregational differences can be put aside. Since when did sharing the Gospel require "puplpit and table fellowship"?

When it comes to an LCMS communing with an ELCA congregation, where is the problem, even our own confessions say, "It is lawful to be communed by an evil man". What more of an issue would it be to commune with a fellow pious congregation?






Ok, what I am really getting at is this idea of seclusion, it is not Christian and not Lutheran. We aren't called to be obstinate blocks and most certainly aren't called to be elitist (no offense to my WELS brethren ). The Gospel is much to sweet for squabling. I can see that if a woman pastor is there, the problems it would make, but in certain places, schism is uncalled for. I am GREATLY upset, and do so emphasize GREATLY, that my brothers, especially those who call themselves Lutherans, would deny my fellowship. Would Christ deny His fellowship to me? Does Christ infact withhold His precious Body and Blood from our table? If he doesn't withhold His Body and Blood then why not come to our table? For not the sake of us but for the sake of Him who offered Himself for us?

It greatly pains my soul, and as I am writing I am greatly disturbed to the point of tears. The Holy Sacrament of the Altar is the most precious possesion of the Church, and I can't bare to hear Christians deny it to other Christians.

I'll read your responses but that is all I have to say on this subject for the sake of unity.

-James
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Old 4th May 2004, 01:56 PM
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And here is the ELCA view on our differences from the ELCA site

What are the differences between
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)?

The differences between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) largely arise from historical and cultural factors, although some are theological in character.

When Lutherans came to North America, they started church bodies that reflected, to some degree, the churches that they left behind. Many maintained until the early 20th century their immigrant languages. They sought pastors from the "old country" until patterns for the education of clergy could be developed here. Eventually, seminaries and church colleges were established in many places to serve the Lutheran churches in North America and, initially, especially to prepare pastors to serve congregations.

The earliest predecessor synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was constituted on August 25, 1748, in Philadelphia. It was known as the Ministerium of Pennsylvania. The ELCA is the product of a series of mergers and represents the largest (5.2 million member) Lutheran church body in North America. The ELCA was created in 1988 by the uniting of the 2.85 million member Lutheran Church in America, 2.25 million member American Lutheran Church, and the 100,000 member Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Previously, the ALC and LCA in the early 1960s came into being as a result of mergers of eight smaller ethnically based Lutheran bodies composed of German, Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Swedish, Slovak, Dutch, and other folk.

The ELCA tends to be more involved in ecumenical endeavors than the LCMS. The ELCA, through predecessor church bodies, is a founding member of the Lutheran World Federation, World Council of Churches and the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. The LCMS does not belong to any of these.

The LCMS sprang from German immigrant roots in the St. Louis area and has a continuous history since it was established in 1847. The LCMS is a second largest Lutheran church body in North America (2.7 million). It identifies itself as a church with an emphasis on biblical doctrine and faithful adherence to the historic Lutheran confessions. Insistence by some LCMS leaders on a literalist reading of all passages of Scripture led to a rupture in the mid-1970s, which in turn resulted in the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, now part of the ELCA.

The pattern of Scripture interpretation generally practiced in the ELCA seeks to consider carefully the meanings of passages and their form. The time and place in which passages were written are studied to assist in interpretation. Emphasis is placed on the message of a text in the context of Scripture. As indicated in the ELCA's constitution, "This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life."

For more information on the history and current documents of the ELCA, look at other resources linked to the "Who We Are" section of the ELCA web site. Another resource related to this topic is the bulletin insert series "With Confidence in God's Future."

Prepared by the ELCA Department for Communication
For more information about the ELCA, e-mail info@elca.org
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27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."


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