The plot thickened in the Lutheran love triangle last month.

The American Lutheran Church (ALC) met in Omaha and floated a fellowship bid down the Missouri River to St. Louis. Come July the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod will decide on its reply. The more conservative Missouri Synod’s vote on fellowship with the ALC is rated a toss-up by insiders.

The ALC also approved the same “pulpit and altar fellowship” (meaning legalized intercommunion and pulpit exchanges) with the Lutheran Church in America, third and largest of the major U. S. Lutheran groups. One wag said this just legitimized a common-law marriage.

The big three in Lutheranism have a total baptized membership of 8.7 million and with the Baptists form the major blocs outside the current talks toward a giant united Protestant church.

In a third action, the ALC expressed readiness to talk three-way organic union with Missouri and the LCA as soon as both are interested. By a close standing vote the 1,000 delegates (half clergy, half lay, nearly four-fifths Midwestern) rejected a motion to talk union with any interested Lutheran group. The motion’s meaning was clear: if Missouri wasn’t interested, the ALC would talk merger with the LCA. And if Missouri votes no in July, that could be just what happens.

Also involved in all this is the 21,500-member Synod of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, a Slovak-background group that is a satellite of Missouri Synod. The four groups compose the Lutheran Council in the United States.

Technically, ALC fellowship policies need approval of two-thirds of the delegates to next year’s district conventions. But passage—a foregone conclusion—will not be announced until Missouri votes.

The LCA meets in 1970 in Minneapolis, ALC headquarters town. While ...

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