Will the 2.8-million-member Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) be torn apart by schism?

Yes, say leaders of the so-called moderate side in the five-year-long battle in the LCMS over the doctrine of Scripture and how much doctrinal conformity the denomination can require of its churches and members. Actions taken at last month’s biennial convention in Anaheim, they claim, were a series of “eviction notices” that will force them out. These moves, they say, soon will lead to a direct confrontation between the conservative-led denomination and some of its districts and local churches. For the first time, they state, many members at the local level will become informed and take a stand. The result will be a new Lutheran denomination or transitional fellowship (pending merger with another Lutheran body) having an initial membership of 250,000 or so, says a moderate spokesman.

Conservative leaders, however, say they expect fewer than 100 congregations to bolt. And LCMS president Jacob “Jack” A. O. Preus implies he will do all he can to avert an explosive showdown with dissident district bodies.

The battle lines were drawn in 1969 when John H. Tietjen moved from a pan-Lutheran public relations job to the presidency of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, then the world’s largest Lutheran seminary, and when Preus moved from the presidency of Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois, to the presidency of LCMS. Preus, riding the wave of conservative concern over creeping theological liberalism in the LCMS, pledged that no synodical school would be permitted to teach that the Bible contains errors.

In 1970 Preus appointed a fact-finding committee to investigate teaching at Concordia, St. Louis, an action protested by moderates. The haggling ...

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