Endorsement of merger plans was the featured action at two big Lutheran conventions held simultaneously, though far apart, October 8–15. Two merger moves currently afoot in American Lutheranism are aimed at forming separate new churches with memberships of two and three million. No formal action, however, has been taken toward uniting the two big churches which are to result.
At Dayton, Ohio—Some 700 delegates at the 21st biennial convention of the United Lutheran Church in America approved provisional plans for merger with the Augustana Lutheran Church, the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church (Suomi Synod).
The ULCA is the nation’s seventh largest Protestant denomination with more than 2¼ million members. The other three churches, conventions of which have similarly approved the merger, are much smaller.
Most of the recommendations of the Joint Commission on Lutheran Unity were hardly questioned. The commission will now try to draft a constitution and by-laws to submit to 1960 church conventions. The union may be consummated by 1961.
Most serious objection to the commission’s recommendations was aimed at a statement which disallows ordination of individuals who are members of secret societies, but which says nothing against pastors who are already in such lodges.
A member of the commission, President Henry H. Bagger of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, said he was “not very much in favor” of the statement because “it violates evangelical freedom, establishes double standards for laity and clergy, and puts a matter of pastoral counseling into the field of discipline.”
Nevertheless, he said, ULCA representatives “found themselves ...1
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