Black storm clouds, herded across the Colorado sky by gusty wind, threatened rain as 8,000 Missouri Synod Lutherans gathered for the opening of their forty-eighth regular convention. The first meeting was held in Red Rock Amphitheater outside Denver on a mid-July evening. Helmeted police with billy clubs were stationed beside the stage—ready, perhaps, for the portended appearance of black militant James Forman. He never showed up, and the rain held off.
But an ominous shadow seemed to remain over the convention. Outgoing synod president Dr. Oliver R. Harms encapsuled the mood of the eight-day assembly, noting that the church was “saturated with rumor, suspicion, and competition of all kinds.” Clouds of mistrust separating conservative and liberal forces never quite lifted.
The chief thunderheads hung over the election of new president Dr. Jacob A. O. Preus (see next page), a theological conservative—even in the conservative three million-member denomination, and the thorny, hotly debated, issue of altar and pulpit fellowship with the sister American Lutheran Church.
The fellowship plan—everyone’s major preoccupation—was approved after hours of tedious discussion at the end of the convention’s fifth day. At one point, sixty-five persons were lined up at mikes waiting to speak. The secret ballot gave 522 votes for fellowship and 438 against.
Fellowship with the 2.7 million-member ALC means that ministers of either denomination may preach in the other’s churches and allows for intercommunion between them. It does not involve an official merger.
Reaction against fellowship (thirteen of thirty-seven synod district presidents had publicly opposed it) centered on three sore spots: ...1
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