The conservative Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod edged toward closer ecumenical contacts at its New York City convention last month. A decision on joining the Lutheran World Federation, under discussion since the early 1950s, was again postponed, but supposedly the showdown will come in 1969. At the same time Missouri plans to study possible membership in the World Council of Churches. The 2,816,833-member synod is the largest Lutheran body outside both the LWF and the WCC.
The general interchurch stance of the synod was explained in a document on “Theology of Fellowship,” in preparation for eleven years. The statement called “unionism” and “separatism” equal dangers. The synod’s basic ecumenical strategy continues to be “doctrinal discussions carried on with a view to achieving doctrinal unity.” But the document endorsed cooperation with other Christian groups “to the extent that the Word of God and conscience will allow” in “necessary work on the local, national, or international level.” Executive Secretary Richard Jungkuntz of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations said this means Missouri could join the WCC and the National Council of Churches if they are just “federations,” rather than churchlike groups where affiliation implies pulpit and altar fellowship.
The synod expressed continued willingness to talk theologically with Roman Catholics and appears ready to go beyond the talking stage with The American Lutheran Church. “A basis exists” for sharing the communion table and exchanging preachers, the delegates said, but as with other ecumenical issues, they postponed action till the 1969 Denver convention. Despite agreements reached in discussions with the ALC, the resolution noted that “disturbing diversities ...1
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