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Fruitful first dialogue between LCMS and NALC

December 20, 2011 No Comment

President Robert Bugbee (LCC), Bishop John Bradosky (NALC), and President Matthew Harrison (LCMS) in discussion. (Photo courtesy of Joe Isenhower Jr., LCMS Communications)

by Mathew Block

The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and North American Lutheran Church (NALC) officially began dialogue in a series of meetings December 15 -16 in St. Louis, Missouri. Among those present were President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS and Bishop John Bradosky of the NALC. President Robert Bugbee of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) was also in attendance as an observer at the invitation of LCMS and NALC leaders.

This marks the first high-level meeting between the LCMS and NALC since the latter’s founding in 2010. In 2009, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) narrowly voted to approve gay marriage and allow non-celibate homosexuals to serve as clergy – a move which left many individuals and congregations contemplating leaving the denomination. In August 2010, a number of disaffected congregations officially founded the NALC. And while sexuality was the surface issue, Bishop John Bradosky explains in a recent Canadian Lutheran article that “the far deeper issue [was] the authority of Scripture.” Little more than a year into its existence, the NALC now counts more than 100,000 individuals and 300 congregations among its membership.

President Bugbee’s attendance at the dialogue was considered particularly important as a number of disaffected Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) congregations have begun to express interest in joining the NALC. In June 2011, the ELCIC followed in the steps of its American counterpart, voting to approve the blessing of same-sex marriages and open the pastorate to practising homosexuals.

Upon the conclusion of the LCMS-NALC meetings, President Bugbee reflected upon the fruitfulness of the dialogue:

“I am deeply grateful to President Harrison and Bishop Bradosky for welcoming Lutheran Church–Canada into their first round of discussions. Although there are serious theological issues that divide these groups, the whole experience was quite heartwarming. We were all able to speak very honestly, and I did not have the sense that we were talking foreign languages to each other, as often happens when one interacts with mainline liberal churches who are increasingly setting God’s Word aside. There is a sincere desire on the part of NALC’s leaders to proclaim Christ as the Saviour of the world, and to honour the Scriptures as God’s written Word.”

The other participants took a similarly positive view of the discussions, according to the LCMS Reporter. President Harrison called the dialogue “a rather joyous surprise.” He further commended his NALC counterparts, saying they “fervently desire to take the Scriptures and the Lutheran confession seriously” and that they “share our own convictions on fundamental issues of life and sexuality.” Bishop Bradosky expressed gratitude to the LCMS for hosting the event, saying the discussions “transcended all our hopes and expectations.”

President Bugbee concluded his statements by noting the following: “Since former ELCIC congregations have begun to join the NALC, Lutheran Church–Canada has a strong interest in watching NALC’s development to see whether we can work together in any way. I’ll be grateful if members of the Synod hold these ongoing discussion in their prayers, as I am doing.”

The next round of discussions is scheduled for May 7-8, 2012, and will be hosted at NALC headquarters in Hillard, Ohio.

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Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran and Manager of Communications for Lutheran Church–Canada.

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