LCMS convention expands inter-church relations
by Mathew Block
ST. LOUIS, Missouri – Yesterday the triennial convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) came to a close. This convention was marked with a number of resolutions designed to expand inter-church relations, including the official recognition of three new partner churches.
The first took place Monday, July 22, when the convention voted to ratify altar and pulpit fellowship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL). The LCMS began mission work in Liberia in the 1970s, but were forced to flee by civil war in 1989. In their absence, Liberian Lutherans continued to grow, officially forming the ELCL in 2009. President Matthew C. Harrison earlier declared altar and pulpit fellowship with the ELCL in May 2012, subject to the 2013 LCMS convention’s ratification.
The convention also ratified fellowship with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) on July 22. The SELC first approached the LCMS in 1998 for formal dialogue, and in 2010 doctrinal unity was declared. As with the ELCL, President Harrison declared fellowship with SELC at that point, subject to the 2013 LCMS convention’s ratification.
Wednesday July 24 saw the LCMS recognize l’Eglise Luthérienne du Togo (ELT) as an independent, self-governing partner church. The LCMS first began mission efforts in Togo in 1980. LCMS missionaries officially departed in 2009, though missionaries in nearby regions continue to support the ELT’s 17 pastors, four vicars, 18 evangelists, ten ministry students, and more than 30 congregations and preaching stations.
The convention also adopted other measures to expand the LCMS’ relationship with other churches, including the Global Seminary Initiative, which will see the church provide qualified confessional Lutheran theological educators around the world as well as bring divinity students from other nations to study at LCMS seminaries. The convention also voted to pursue further discussions with the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
The International Lutheran Council and 27 Lutheran church bodies from around the world sent letters of greeting to convention participants. President Robert Bugbee, on behalf of Lutheran Church–Canada, was among those who sent letters. On Tuesday, July 23, the convention recognized President Bugbee and the representatives of other church bodies who were on hand for convention proceedings.