According to the staffs of Synod's Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR), participants of the model theological conference in Scottsdale, AZ last summer said that the Missouri Synod Lutherans have more in common than differences which give a sense of hope to the gathering and that future events should focus on issues that trouble the Synod.
In the Aug 5-7 conference with some 200 participants, discussion were held on what the Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions say about church fellowship and the cases of discretion.
The following are some of the reoccurring themes of the conference:
- Areas of agreement
A clear and faithful witness to the true God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- and to His truth must be given in the public realm, boldly and without fear.
The importance of Matthew 18 in the synodical life.
The distinction between joint prayer and prayer in the presence of non-Christians appears to be a valid one.
The synod cannot, and probably should not, seek to resolve tension that may arise between bearing witness to Jesus' name in every opportunity, and remaining faithful to Biblical doctrine.
The category of "cases of discretion" is a legitimate one, though questions arise regarding the limits placed upon us by our synodical commitments and the criteria employed in making judgments.
- Problems or issues that face the synod
Lack of commonly understood definitions of key terms used among the synods
The propriety and role of prayer in the public realm, especially where non-Christians are present
The relationship between doctrine and practice
The legitimacy and/or usefulness of the suggested distinction between "civic events" and "religious civic events"
Disagreement on general approach to participation in "civic events": some say "when in doubt, don't," while others say "sin on the side of boldness."
- Factors for judging "cases of discretion"
Pastors and LCMS members should be open to opportunities to proclaim the Gospel in the public square, boldly and without fear.
When considering the appropriateness of participation, determine: the nature and purpose of the event, who will participate, the intent of those who have planned it, who is in charge of the event, what each participant is being asked to do.
The content of what is being said.
- Ethical concerns
Lack of trust among pastors.
A deep and serious concern about relationships between and among the members of the Synod.
Charity necessitates accountability, treating each other with respect, speaking the truth, admonishing erring brothers, receiving counsel gracefully, putting the best construction on circumstances.
Charity ought not to become a pretense for wrongdoing.
Sensitivity to perceptions regarding what is said and done by pastors in the public realm.
Sensitivity to the matter of offense: offense to fellow members of the Synod, as well as offense given to others.
By Tony C.