Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lutherans working together?

At its national convention today in Houston, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) voted overwhelmingly (961-175) to continue to work together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Cooperative efforts between these two largest Lutheran church bodies have included social service, disaster, and hunger efforts. This is exciting news!

As an ELCA Lutheran, I know there are differences between us Lutherans, and they are not minor. In the ELCA, we practice open communion. I've borrowed a phrase from one of my colleagues: "As pastor, I am the waiter at the table, not the bouncer at the bar." I also appreciate that we have female clergy in the ELCA. In the course of my training, my supervisors for field education, clinical pastoral education, and internship have all been women. I did not seek out female mentors, but I know that my leadership has been influenced by talented faithful people, both male and female. I am also unashamedly proud to count people of all sexual orientations as my clergy colleagues.

However, I am also tired of the Missouri-bashing I all too often see in the ELCA. I envy the Biblical literacy that my friends who grew up in the LCMS have. I think the LCMS's commitment to education is amazing. Even though we don't always see eye-to-eye, I know that God is at work in the Missouri Synod, too.

A few years ago, I met a small handful of LCMS clergy at a conference about ecumenism. There were many dozen ELCA folks there, and I commented to one of the LCMS gentlemen that there were so few of them. "We don't get invited," they calmly told me.

I firmly believe that we in the ELCA do not have a monopoly on God's grace. I hope many and various people of faith may continue to find ways to work together, for the sake of the Gospel.

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