|Some of our finest leaders|
could not attend the meetings
because they were tied down.
In 2012 the leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) decided to hold an informal meeting, which was held in December 2012. The impetus behind the meeting was the election of Rev. Mark Schroeder as president of WELS in 2007 and the election of Rev. Matthew Harrison as president of the LCMS in 2010, providing a new opportunity for discussions. Since all three synods are almost insolvent, we pooled our resources to find another guilt-ridden billionaire so we could sell more indulgences and name more chapels and libraries.
It had been many years since any meetings had taken place between these synods, which were once in fellowship as members of the Synodical Conference. When fellowship was suspended (ELS/LCMS in 1955 and WELS/LCMS in 1961), it was understood that contacts should continue to be made to try to overcome the differences. Thanks to AAL/LB/Thrivent, this has continued under the leadership of ELCA. The WELS convention in 1961 resolved “that under conditions which do not imply a denial of our previous testimony we stand ready to resume discussions with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod with the aim of reestablishing unity of doctrine and practice and of restoring fellowship relations, these discussions to be conducted outside the framework of fellowship.” Now that we all train our leaders at Fuller Seminary and Willow Creek, we can talk the same language again.
Mark Jeske is proving to be a heaven-sent midwife to give birth to total reunion with ELCA, funded by the insurance business and various foundations and gambling resorts.
Since the preliminary, get-acquainted meeting in December 2012, all three synods have passed convention resolutions that have encouraged continued informal discussions. Additional meetings were held in December 2013 focusing on the doctrine of church and ministry, in December 2014 focusing on the doctrine of church fellowship, and in December 2015 focusing on hermeneutics (methods of biblical interpretation). With this document, we as participants want to give a mutually approved report to our respective synods about the status of these informal meetings. We hope they continue at these snazzy resorts.
|The left hand of whatever.|
There have been many surprises for all participants in our meetings. When did Matt Harrison gain all that weight? His media photos have him 50 pounds lighter. Even though the ELS and WELS have not been in fellowship with the LCMS for over 50 years, we found—as we shared our situations openly and honestly—that we have much in common as leaders and as synods. We were able to put to rest some myths and legends about our respective synods.
For instance, Luther was not much of a theologian or Biblical scholar. We are going to continue our campaign of forgetting him so we can lift Walther, Pieper, Larry Olson, and Waldo Werning to the heights they deserve as our latter day prophets.
In particular, LCMS participants were surprised to learn how much pain was still being faked in the ELS and WELS because of the dissolution of the Synodical Conference in the 1960s. LCMS participants were happy to hear about the nominal esteem that is present in the ELS and WELS for the public ministry and the pastoral office, and to learn about the nuances of the ELS and WELS fellowship doctrine and that it is not applied in a legalistic way. We can all talk out of both sides of our mouths on all issues. WELS GA hazing has taught us a lot about how to fool the gullible and shun the thinkers.
ELS and WELS participants, on the other hand, were surprised to see the conservative and confessionally faithful stance faked by the LCMS leaders, and how oleaginous they are in listening and "understanding" the viewpoint of others.
ELS and WELS participants learned much about the structure and operation of the LCMS, including the fact that the documents and statements of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), unless adopted by the synod in convention, do not constitute the official doctrinal position of the LCMS. Now you see it, now you don't. That works much better than tying everyone down with these infallible decrees and solemn declarations.
Missouri rejoiced that WELS and ELS leaders do not take anything seriously, except for themselves. They also thanked God that Jay Webber was not invited to these sessions.
ELS and WELS participants were heartened to hear LCMS leaders acknowledge with sadness that the ELS and WELS were compelled to break fellowship with the LCMS to avoid the tragedy of the doctrinal controversy that befell the LCMS in the 1970s, and that LCMS leaders are continuing to work for faithfulness in Scriptural doctrine and practice in their synod. [Secretary note - Can we get away with this knee-slapping humor, or is it raw sanctimony? OK - more raw meat for the base. Got it. Please don't mention that WELS formed the backbone of Seminex.]
Most of all, it was a pleasant surprise to recognize that doctrinal agreement exists in many areas, some of which we will document here. The big one - Universal Forgiveness and Salvation - will enable to do anything we want with any denomination, sect, or polka society we want.
|"Face it, Brett, ELCA is winning this one."|
First and foremost among areas of evident agreement is the fact—quite astonishing in our world today and not at all to be taken for granted among those who claim to be Lutherans—that we all pretend to agree wholeheartedly on the formal and material principles of theology. We publicly agree that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God and the only source of authority for doctrine and practice. Of course, we all have our unspoken rules, traditions, and third rails. We agree that the chief message of the Bible is that faith is bad, a work of man, so God declared the entire unbelieving world forgiven and saved. This eliminates all that needless chatter about worship, closed communion, and other adiaphora. In light of this agreement, it seems that there is reason to continue to discuss doctrine together with the hope that we may be able to come to full agreement under the guidance and manipulations of our Father Below.
All of us also confess without reservation (quia) that the Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of the Holy Scriptures - which is good, because most of us have not even glanced at them since seminary, if we did then. When discussing hermeneutics, we found that we say basically claim to say the same thing: Our doctrine is based on Scripture, and when we compare Scripture with the Lutheran Confessions, we find that they agree. Therefore we subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and use them as normative for teaching in the Lutheran Church. [Secretary - Are you pulling my leg? The three are more Seminexy than the old Seminex guys were.]
|Mark Jeske cast a vision for us, a day when we will|
not only ordain women and gays, as we already do,
but also animals.
In our sessions, we identified a number of biblical doctrines or practices where we acknowledge that we teach the same thing in our three synods, including the following:
• The Trinity as defined by the Braaten Jenson Dogmatics
• The person and work of Christ
• Universal forgiveness and salvation, without faith
• Genesis 1–11 is actual history, for example with a six day creation, Adam and Eve, and the fall
• The real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, unless we are communing with ELCA
• Baptism except when we study with Babtists
• Law and gospel, making Moses the Savior and Jesus the lawgiver
• Means of grace, by which we tell people they were already forgiven and saved before being born
• Eternal election of grace, another way to deep six "faith"
• Conversion of the ELS to a circuit because it is so tiny and growing smaller
• Two kingdoms, the Kingdom of Schwan and the Kingdom of Jeske
• End times
• Resurrection of the body
• Antichrist clearly identified as that blogger we will not name
• Third use of the law
• Rejection of women’s ordination for now
• Rejection of infant communion for now
• Worship as entertainment
• Need for ecclesiastical visitation and doctrinal supervision
We also called to mind how all three synods expressed agreement with A Brief Statement of the Doctrinal Position of the Missouri Synod when it first appeared in the early 1930s. This doctrinal statement still reflects areas of agreement today. We still wonder why everything began falling apart after we supplanted the Book of Concord with the BS 1932.
Of special note in our discussions was the doctrine of the church, because, to the surprise of ELS and WELS participants, it seemed that we agreed with each other on this doctrine. We are equally mixed up between the Fuller Enthusiasts, the Walther Enthusiasts, and the Roman Enthusiasts. We also acknowledged agreement in regard to current social issues, such as the sanctity of life except when working with ELCA, human sexuality except when working with ELCA, and religious freedom except when we are clobbering, firing, and shunning any dissent from our hybrid dogma. Last but certainly not least, there was special joy to understand that we all hold to objective justification—that God declared the world righteous through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and that we all recognize it to be the urgent mission of the church to take this Universalism disguised as gospel to the entire world.
|Bivens, Brug, and Wendland ask,|
"Why are our students so dumb?"
In spite of the above areas of agreement, a number of significant differences (real or perceived) remain that need to be thoroughly addressed. It should be stated clearly that we do not expect to reestablish church fellowship in the near future. All of us are convinced that church fellowship requires complete agreement in doctrine. OK, to be honest, we already agree about how much we covet every doctrine except Luther's, but PR is PR, and our WELS PR guy is still in the slammer.
For example, in our discussions on the ministry, it has become evident that we carry on church life in very similar ways. We all want well-trained, male pastors to shepherd our congregations and female ministers by decree, and we all have other church offices such as Lutheran school teachers that serve together with pastors. But we talk about the necessity of the pastoral office in different ways and present the scriptural basis of the doctrine differently, in part due to our different histories and the different concerns that we face and which wild hair programs we have attended. We recognize that further discussions on this topic will need to take place.
In our discussions about church fellowship, we have found that we agree on the general principles and on the practice of closed communion, so we can ignore them. But we differ on what we say about prayer fellowship, especially since we have various factions and fanatics.
There also are other potential issues that we have not yet discussed fully, including the roles of men and women and transgenders, cooperation in externals, and international church relationships. There is ongoing concern about the consistency of practice in our church bodies. None of us sees an easy path to fellowship, and none of us wants to compromise any part of God’s Word in the process. The New NIV will take care of that in a few years, seamlessly changing from moment to moment, anticipating all societal changes.
|Let our sexual harassment team|
take over your church service.
No children allowed.
Plans and Hopes for the Future
In view of the progress we have made, we intend to continue to meet to pursue additional topics. The tone of our discussions has been positive and friendly, and we have come to a level of mutual respect and trust. We have been in fellowship with each other and ELCA for decades so why not formalize our morganatic marriage?
Perhaps God may guide us to a reestablishment of fellowship at some point in the future, a goal for which we pray and work. But even if we are not able to practice church fellowship, we have found benefit in talking together about church work, in patiently trying to understand the issues better, and in providing a measure of encouragement in our lives of repentance and fidelity to Fuller Seminary and Willowcreek. Gradually we may also look for ways to include others from our synods in these inter-synodical discussions, but not Jay Webber.
Around us in America we see a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity. It is good to be in conversation with the few who are still committed to faking confessional Lutheranism. This is something that the LCMS especially has been trying to do around the world, bringing Lutherans together and encouraging them to be faithful to Stephan, Walther, Pieper, and Halle University.
Anyone who has advice in regard to ELS/LCMS/WELS relations is invited to direct it to one of the undersigned participants, so we can start an excommunication file. Certainly, all who read this report are encouraged to remember our discussions and our respective synods in prayer.
"God bless and keep them - far away from us."
This report was approved by the following meeting attendees on December 2, 2015 in Jacksonville, FL- WELS, ELS, and LCMS:
|Dress for success in WELS.|
|Why do they want to call my synod - "just a circuit"?|