A more fitting theme for the forty-ninth biennial convention of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod could hardly be imagined: “Sent to Reconcile.” As the convention opened in Milwaukee last month, everyone agreed reconciliation was sorely needed. The 2.8-million-member denomination has been increasingly riddled with tensions and suspicions—mostly over doctrinal matters—since Dr. Jacob A. O. Preus took over as Synod president two years ago.

At the convention’s close, delegates were still divided—even over whether the tumultuous eight-day session had moved factions closer together or further apart. The net result was to please those happy with Missouri’s apparent shift toward a more open stance on doctrine and relations with other Lutheran bodies. And to make unhappier those already upset by what they see as a drift toward unionism and the lack of synodical authority to make binding convention resolutions on doctrine.

The church may have moved a shade to the right from its position at Denver two years ago. But overall, the important victories went to the theological moderates. Preus could only say at a closing press conference: “It is not quite correct to call this a major defeat.”

This was the showdown convention between progressive forces and conservatives who wanted to roll back pulpit and altar fellowship with the American Lutheran Church (enacted at Denver), disengage the Missouri Synod from the Lutheran Council in the U. S. A., and bind LCMS pastors, teachers, and professors to convention interpretations of the Bible.

Of particular concern to the progressives was Preus’s bid for “adequate machinery” to oust—if it came to that—professors at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis who have been the subject of a lengthy investigation ...

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