Project Wittenberg

The Nature and Implications of the
Concept of Fellowship

Part III

A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
April 1981

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Part III


A Plea for Responsible Freedom
in the Context of Responsible Commitment

The Commission concludes this study with a pastoral word to the members of the Synod concerning our loving commitment to each other. This report has shown that, while the Scriptures present basic principles regarding the nature of fellowship, they do not provide the specific organizational structure and procedures for the implementation of these principles. This task is left for the church to carry out.

By virtue of our membership in the Synod, we in the LCMS have voluntarily agreed with one another regarding those activities and actions with fellow Christians in other church bodies which we understand the Scriptural principles of fellowship to permit and prohibit. [76] We have made certain decisions together regarding the specific meaning of altar and pulpit fellowship, as well as the way in which we go about declaring it and implementing it. We have also established procedures for revising previous decisions in this area. The loving commitment of the members of the Synod to each other requires that we submit ourselves to our joint decisions. [77]

The workability of ecclesiastical declarations of altar and pulpit fellowship is dependent upon the existence of mutual trust and confidence among the pastors, teachers, and congregations of the Synod. Such an atmosphere comes into being when the members of the Synod voluntarily demonstrate their responsible commitment not only to its doctrinal position but also to its mutually agreed-upon decisions. This means that from time to time responsibly committed members of the Synod may have to forego the practice of church fellowship with individuals and congregations with whom they find themselves in doctrinal agreement. It is not sufficient for responsibly committed members of the Synod to justify the violation of their mutual decisions with the claim that a certain activity can be engaged in without violating specific doctrines taught in the Scriptures and confessed in the Lutheran symbols. The love of Christ, which seeks the edification of all members of His body, will also constrain us to take seriously the commitments which we have made with our fellow members in the Synod.

At the same time, it must also be recognized that unusual and difficult situations can and do arise in this world. Responsible commitment to our mutually agreed-upon fellowship policies does not mean legalistic slavery to rules. Rather, this very commitment itself demands freedom for responsible pastoral ministry. When, in certain unusual circumstances, our regular ways of proceeding would get in the way of a ministry of Word and sacrament to a person in spiritual need, then an alternate way of proceeding must be sought. In such cases the advice and counsel of brothers in the ministry can be of inestimable value. It should also be recognized that individuals equally committed to the Scriptural principles of fellowship may not always come to identical conclusions regarding specific ways of proceeding in administering pastoral care in such exceptional cases. It is imperative that pastors show a mutual respect for one another's ministry. Uninformed and judgmental criticism of actions which appear to be violations of mutually agreed-upon ways of proceeding are destructive of the trust and confidence which fellow members of the Synod should have in one another. It should go without saying, however, that Christian love includes the exercise of loving admonition and doctrinal oversight, especially by those to whom this responsibility has been entrusted.

Freedom for responsible pastoral ministry goes hand in hand with responsible commitment to mutual decisions. It is impossible to have one without the other. A lack of responsible commitment invites the very suspicion and mistrust which inhibits responsible pastoral care. But genuine commitment to our agreed-upon procedures builds the atmosphere of confidence and trust in which freedom for pastoral ministry thrives.


[1] Ambiguous denominationalism is a phrase which is sometimes used to refer to the fact that doctrinal divergence today is often as great within a denomination as between denominations.

[2] Resolution 3-02A, Convention Proceedings, 1977, p.126. In this resolution the Synod stated that years of discussions between representatives of the ALC and LCMS had revealed clear doctrinal differences between them on the doctrine of Scripture, the ordination of women, the nature and basis of fellowship, and membership in ecumenical organizations. At the same time, however, the Synod noted that "there is some evidence of agreement in doctrine and practice between members of the ALC and LCMS on the local level," that "not all members of the ALC share the objectionable positions and practices of the ALC," that "many LCMS members are unaware of the serious differences that exist at the church body level," and that "there is considerable evidence of doctrinal disagreement and confusion in understanding the nature and implications of the concept of fellowship." Taking all of these factors into account, the Synod proceeded to declare itself to be in a state of "fellowship in protest with the ALC" on account of doctrinal disagreements and to ask the CTCR "to prepare a comprehensive study and report on the nature and implications of the concept of fellowship." This assignment to the CTCR was renewed in 1979. Cf. Resolution 3-03, Convention Proceedings, 1979, pp. 117 f.

[3] Some have suggested that the starting point for a comprehensive treatment of the concept of fellowship should be Article VII of the Augsburg Confession. Such an approach would certainly be legitimate, since this article has important implications for this subject. As the CTCR has stated ("A Review of the Question 'What Is a Doctrine,'"A Report of the CTCR, 1967, p. 7): "A pure understanding of the Gospel, and therefore correct preaching of the Gospel, calls for a correct understanding of the articles of faith treated in the Augsburg Confession, defended in its Apology, and explained in the remaining Lutheran Confessions, particularly the Formula of Concord. All articles of faith are integrally related to the Gospel and articulate the Gospel from different perspectives. Consequently the preaching of the Gospel according to a pure understanding of it is not possible when any article of faith is either falsified or denied." At the same time, the CTCR has stated that AC VII "is not in the first instance a programmatic statement for the establishment of denominational fellowship." Therefore the Commission has approached this assignment from the doctrine of the means by which the church is created, nurtured, and preserved (the marks of the church), rather than from the doctrine of the church itself.

[4] J. V. Campbell says that koinonia means "having something in common with someone" or "participating in something" (J. V. Campbell, "Koinonia and Its Cognates in the New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature (1932), pp. 356 f.). The Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich lexicon (second edition) lists four meanings: 1) association, communion, fellowship, close relationship; 2) generosity, fellow- feeling, altruism; 3) sign of fellowship, proof of brotherly unity, gift, contribution; and 4) participation, sharing in something (W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. rev. and augmented by F.W. Gingrich and Frederick Danker [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1979], pp. 438-39). Friedrich Hauck in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament outlines his discussion of the New Testament's use of koinonia and its cognates under the headings: 1) "to share with someone in something"; 2) "to give someone a share in something"; and 3) "fellowship" (Friedrich Hauck, "Koinon-in the New Testament," Vol. 3 [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1965], pp. 804- 809). Cf. also Heinrich Seesemann, Der Begriff Koinonia im Neuen Testament (Giessen: Verlag von Alfred Toepelmann, 1933).

[5] We therefore confess in the Nicene Creed: "And I believe one holy, Christian, and apostolic church." That there is, properly speaking, only one church is also confessed in the third article of the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in ... the holy Christian church" (The Book of Concord, pp. 18-19).

[6] It is for this reason that the Lutheran Confessions distinguish between the church properly speaking (proprie dicta) and broadly speaking (large dicta) (Ap, VII and VIII, 10, 12-13, 16, 20, 22).

[7] Fellowship understood as an external relationship to be manifested and maintained also possesses a spiritual dimension, to be sure, in that it is constituted by agreement in the confession of the Scriptural Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.

[8] Cf. Martin Franzmann, "Exegesis on Romans 16:17 ff.," Concordia Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1 (January 1981), pp. 13-20.

[9] Cf. "A Lutheran Stance Toward Ecumenism," A Report of the CTCR, 1974, pp. 9 f., for a more extensive treatment of what the Lutheran Confessions teach about church fellowship.

[10] Theologians use the Latin phrase fides qua creditur ("the faith by which one believes") and fides quae creditur ("the faith which is believed") to distinguish between faith understood as the believer's trust in God's redemptive activity in Christ (fides qua) and "faith" understood as the body of Christian doctrine Aides quae).

[11] FC Ep, V, 7.

[12] See note 10 above.

[13] There is no Scriptural evidence to indicate that external unity in the church necessarily implies organizational unity.

[14] Cf. Peter Brunner, "The Realization of Church Fellowship," The Unity of the Church: A Symposium (Rock Island,Ill.: Augustana Press, 1957), p. 13. Brunner writes: "The unity of the church is unquestionably constantly given. The unity of the spiritual body of Jesus is indestructible. ... When we take this seriously, we cannot formulate our task in the ecumenical consultations to be the establishing of the unity of the Church of Jesus Christ. Contrariwise, we must derive our ecumenical obligation from the unity of the church that is continually given. We should not formulate our task in such a way as to say that we have to make the unity of the church of God visible on earth. For we cannot visibly draw the lines of division which truly separate the living members of the body of Jesus from those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. This line of separation is seen now only by the eye of God. Therefore the unity of the Church of God will only first be manifest for our eyes in the apocalyptic revelation of the kingdom of God."

[15] Cf. ibid., p. 20: "For the sake of men's salvation, the church stands under the command to preserve clearly the apostolic Word, and thereby, the mark of apostolicity at its center. In obedience to this principal ecclesiological command, the church must repudiate all false doctrine. In obedience to this command, it must refuse to grant church fellowship where agreement cannot be reached on the content of the Word which is to be proclaimed as the apostolic message and faithfully administered in its sacraments."

[16] Cf. "A Lutheran Stance Toward Ecumenism," pp. 9 - 10.

[17] Cf. Martin Franzmann, "Exegesis on Romans 16:17 ff.," p. 18. Franzmann describes the complexity of the situation which existed in the church in Galatia: "The most persistent troublers of Pauline congregations and Pauline missions ... were undoubtedly Judaizers, known to us best and most clearly from the Epistles to the Galatians and the Book of Acts. Acts (15:5) tells that they were Pharisees who had come to the faith. St. Paul's language concerning them in Galatians is stern and uncompromising, designed to lay bare the fundamental contradiction between their propaganda and the Gospel of the free grace of God in Christ Jesus. But the very force and fury of his language is evidence that what the Judaizers brought was deceptively like the real article. What they preached was, in their understanding of it, 'another gospel,' and it is understandable that whereas St. Paul stresses the 'another,' they stressed the 'gospel.' It is not beyond imagination to think that they were of the conviction that they were propagating a more conservative type of Christianity, the genuine Jerusalem variety, made of sterner stuff than the manpleasing dilution of it that St. Paul had originally proclaimed among the Galatians."

[18] Titus was a Greek. Hence to compel him to be circumcised would be to compromise the Gospel. But Timothy, although he had a Greek father, as the son of a Jewish mother could be considered to be a Jew. Paul could therefore circumcise him without compromising the Gospel.

[19] See "Theology of Fellowship," A Report of the CTCR, 1967, pp. 12 f., for a more complete review of the practice of church fellowship in church history.

[20] Werner Elert, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, trans. N. E. Nagel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966), p. 109. Elert writes (p. 113): "Heterodoxy breaks church fellowship and therefore self-evidently and primarily also altar fellowship."

[21] Ibid., p. 128.

[22] Cf. Martin Luther, Luther's Works, ed. J. Pelikan, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians 1535 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1963), p. 25. Commenting on Gal. 1:2, Luther writes: "Therefore the church is holy even where the fanatics are dominant, so long as they do not deny the Word and the sacraments; if they deny these, they are no longer the church. Wherever the substance of the Word and the sacraments abides, therefore, there the holy church is present, even though Antichrist may reign there."

[23] Examined here are only those models for external unity in the church which have been proposed by worldwide ecumenical organizations such as the World Council of Churches and the Lutheran World Federation, or which have been frequently discussed in the Synod. Models for external unity in the church not reviewed here range from "ecclesial communion," proposed by the Second Vatican Council, based on a sacramental expression of the mystery of the Trinity (cf. John Hotchkin's "Probing the Possibilities," Interface, 1980, pp. 3 f.), to the demand of separatistic groups for total agreement not only in doctrine but also in ceremonies, polity, and all matters of adiaphora.

[24] Cf., e.g., "The Church, the Churches, and the World Council of Churches," Central Committee Minutes, Toronto, 1950, pp. 84-90.

[25] The New Delhi Report (London: SCM, 1962), p. 116.

[26] The Uppsala 68 Report (Geneva: WCC, 1968), p. 17.

[27] The WCC has continued to discuss Conciliarity since 1973, e.g., at Accra, Ghana (July-August 1974), and Nairobi (1975).

[28] "The Unity of the Church-Next Steps," The Ecumenical Review, 26 (April 1974), p. 293.

[29] Ibid., pp. 293-95. Cf. "Concepts of Unity and Models of Union: A Preliminary Study Document," 1972, p. 11. "Organic union seems, therefore, the only model worth considering. The statements of the New Delhi and Uppsala assemblies point in the same direction. The 'fully committed fellowship' for which New Delhi pleaded can only come about by the organic union of Christians and congregations in each place.' ... Such a degree of fellowship cannot be secured by the other models: movement, federation, mutual recognition." J.E. Lesslie Newbigin, one of the fathers of conciliarism, writes: "We have not included among the legitimate groups for provisional separation the distinct 'types' of Christian discipleship which have developed in history on the basis of special experiences of individual leaders or national churches, 'types' defined by such names as Anglican, Lutheran, Roman, etc. Such forms of separation seem to be roundly condemned by the language of St. Paul in dealing with the Corinthian factions. ... The provisional arrangements of which we have been speaking are those which arise from missionary obligation" ("What Is 'a Local Church Truly United'?" quoted in John F. Hotchkin's "Probing the Possibilities," Interface [Spring 1980], 8).

[30] "Concepts of Unity and Models of Union," p. 13.

[31] Ibid., p. 14.

[32] "The Unity of the Church-Next Steps," p. 298.

[33] "Concepts of Unity and Models of Union," p. 3.

[34] Ibid., p. 4.

[35] Ibid., p. 7. Ernst Kasemann, among others, argues, on the basis of a historical-critical investigation of the New Testament, that we now know that many of the doctrinal differences found in contemporary denominationalism simply mirror the diversity to be found in the New Testament itself. Cf. "The New Testament Canon and the Unity of the Church," Essays on New Testament Themes (London: SCM Press, 1971). Kaesemann writes (pp. 103-104): "The New Testament canon does not, as such, constitute the foundation of the unity of the church. On the contrary, as such (that is, in its accessibility to the historian) it provides the basis for the multiplicity of the confessions. The variability of the kerygma in the New Testament is an expression of the fact that in primitive Christianity a wealth of different confessions were already in existence. ... If the canon as such is binding in its totality, the various confessions may, with differing degree of historical justification, claim as their own larger or smaller tracts of it, better or less known New Testament writers."

[36] WCC Exchange, No. 3/2, July 1977. Representatives from 14 confessional families including the Lutheran World Federation participate in the meetings of the "Conferences of Secretaries of WCFs," which are informal. (The Conference has no constitution.)

[37] Ibid., p. 6.

[38] Ibid., p. 7.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Ibid., p. 9.

[41] Ibid., p. 7.

[42] Andreas Aarflot, "The Lutheran Church and the Unity of the Church," In Christ-A New Community: The Proceedings of the Sixth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (Geneva: The Lutheran World Federation, 1977), pp. 35-51.

[43] Ibid., p. 43.

[44] Ibid., p. 45.

[45] Ibid., p. 45-46

[46] Ibid., p. 46 .

[47] Cf. Ibid., p. 41. Bishop Aarflot writes: "We are under obligation to strive together to bring forth the true unity of the church (Eph. 4, 1 ff.). This basic obligation constrains us, both within our own churches and in wider organizational structures of an ecumenical character. ... The guiding principle of our efforts is the basic universal unity which we believe the churches share as long as they are committed to the one apostolic faith. This is a unity given in Christ. ... We want to stress the fact, however, that the unity we seek should be an outward recognizable unity which becomes historically manifest in the life of the churches. The confession of the hidden unity of the church is not a sufficient expression of the true unity that we seek."

[48] Ibid., p. 45.

[49] Cf. "The Ecumenical Role of the World Confessional Families in the One Ecumenical Movement," p. 9: "Unity and fellowship among the churches do not require uniformity of faith and order, but can and must encompass a plurality of diversity of convictions and traditions." (Emphasis added.)

[50] "Response by The Rev. John Gatu," In Christ-A New Community: The Proceedings of the Sixth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (Geneva: The Lutheran World Federation, 1977), p. 53.

[51] Minutes of the American Lutheran Church, 1946, p. 23. Quoted by Edward C. Fendt in The Struggle for Lutheran Unity and Consolidation in the USA from the Late 1930's to the Early 1970's, pp. 41-42. This resolution states: "WHEREAS the matter of 'Selective Fellowship' was discussed at the 1944 convention of the Church and was referred to the districts for study and consideration, and WHEREAS the Committee on Fellowship of the American Lutheran Church reports that all districts endorsed 'Selective Fellowship' in principle, therefore be it Resolved that pastors and parishes of the American Lutheran Church shall be free to have pulpit, altar, and prayer fellowship with such pastors and parishes of other Lutheran Synods as agree, in doctrine and practice, with the declarations made in Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Article II-Confession of Faith-of the Constitution of the American Lutheran Church." This resolution was based on a statement prepared by Dr. M. Reu.

[52] Cf. 1967 Convention Workbook, p. 60; 1969 Convention Workbook, pp. 107-108; 1971 Convention Workbook, p. 190; 1973 Convention Workbook, pp. 90-91; 1975 Convention Workbook, p. 129; 1977 Convention Workbook, p. 122; and 1979 Convention Workbook, pp. 118-119.

[53] The Lutheran Cyclopedia defines selective fellowship as the principle whereby the exercise of Christian fellowship (e.g., pulpit, altar, prayer) is determined by an individual or by a local church" (1975 ed., s.v. "Selective Fellowship"). But The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church gives this definition: "When one church body establishes pulpit and altar fellowship with another, it may be further stipulated that such fellowship may be selective, i.e., that only that pastor or congregation be admitted to this fellowship in whose case it is felt genuine Christian fellowship is not violated, say, for doctrinal reasons" (1965 ed, s.v. "Selective Fellowship").

[54] Cf. the following response of an LCMS Bible class to the CTCR's "Bible Study on Fellowship": "The question before a synodical convention should not be whether we have church fellowship [with another denomination]. ... Rather, we believe the Synod can and should go on record as condemning particular false teachings or unscriptural practices taught or tolerated in these bodies. ... The doctrinal integrity of the Synod would thus be safeguarded. It would remain in the sphere of the individual congregation whether to commune guests from synods which have thus been marked as teaching or tolerating false teachings. It would remain in the sphere of the local congregation whether to have a joint service or activity with a particular congregation from such a synod. We think this would be realistic, since the label of false teaching does not apply in each individual case."

[55] Cf. the following response of an LCMS Bible class to the CTCR's "Bible Class on Fellowship": "It is the experience and belief of the people in this Bible class that there are many individuals who have faith in Christ, who trust God's grace, and who sincerely-though imperfectly desire to serve the Lord, and that these people are found in varying degrees in most all Christian denominations. We have a God- given fellowship with all these people, a fellowship which is not destroyed by the fact that we each hold membership in different imperfect denominations. We are duty-bound to express our fellowship with these people and need to find ways of doing so. It makes no sense for us to refuse to join them in prayer, worship, etc., because some people in their denominations are out of fellowship with us or because some things are taught in their denominations which we consider wrong. Such refusal is not Biblical. ... Not only are there many individuals with Christian faith in other denominations, but many of the congregations and pastors of these denominations confess and proclaim the saving faith in Jesus Christ and sincerely work to serve Him. This faith unites us with these pastors and congregations, as well as with the individual believers. Whatever our denominational conventions may assert, God says that we have fellowship with those pastors and congregations (non Lutheran as well as Lutheran), and we need to find ways of expressing this God-given fellowship with them.... Questions of how and with whom to acknowledge and express fellowship are best decided on the level where that acknowledgment and expression is to take place. ... We on the local level should not let conventions and/or synodical administrations interfere with our exercise of this right and responsibility."

[56] Cf. the following response of a pastor's conference to the CTCR's "Bible Study on Fellowship": "It must border on false doctrine to believe that sinful human beings can know the Gospel of Christ purely and can communicate that Gospel of Christ purely. ... Fellowship is not 'establishing relationships.' Fellowship exists through 'the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.' We are united in 'one body and one Spirit ... one hope ... one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all' (Eph. 4:3- 6). Christians have that fellowship regardless of whether church bodies establish relationships or not. Individual Christians have both the right and perhaps the obligation to practice (give manifestation to a belief) on an individual basis the fellowship they have in Christ. Some relationships may be best established by churches, such as altar and pulpit fellowship. However, to imply that all activities that demonstrate our unity in Christ should be determined by church bodies is unsupportable. ... Just as a denomination's declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship with another denomination does not determine that all congregations in those two denominations must have altar and pulpit fellowship, so the lack of declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship should not determine that fellowship activities cannot be appropriate in certain instances."

[57] The view that church members at the local level are in a better position than national conventions to determine with whom they should give expression to their unity in the body of Christ falsely assumes that church fellowship is based on faith in the heart instead of on agreement in confession.

[58] Cf. Edward C. Fendt's comments on the ALC's 1946 adoption of selective fellowship. Dr. Fendt writes: "No amount of rationalization or interpretation could make the proposal of Selective Fellowship acceptable or workable. It was regarded as effrontery and audacity on the part of the ALC and rightly so. It encouraged individualism and 'rebellion' (at least breaking rank) in the other churches. But the most objectionable feature was the suggestion (requirement?) to agree with Sections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of Article II in the Constitution of the ALC (just a few steps short of applying for membership in the ALC). ... Many years later. ... Dr. Franklin Clark Fry with his characteristic articulation and candor described the ALC's resolution of Selective Fellowship accurately. He regarded it as inept and offensive 'church politics.' He said with a bit of laughter: 'Every time I accept an invitation to speak under any kind of auspices I know that I do not qualify. I am neither in agreement with the Pittsburgh Agreement nor with Article II of the ALC Constitution. One of these days I shall never again accept an invitation from ALC sources until this business of Selective Fellowship is rescinded." The Struggle for Lutheran Unity and Consolidation in the USA from the Late 1930's to the Early 1970's (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1980), pp. 42-43.

[59] Hermann Sasse, "Selective Fellowship," The Australasian Theological Review (September 1957), p. 55. As Sasse points out, selective fellowship with its excessive congregationalism betrays a deficient understanding of the doctrine of the church. Sasse writes: "From these biblical facts it must be understood that the Church in all ages up to the 17th century always has seen fellowship between Christians as fellowship between the churches to which the individuals belong. There was never such a thing as private practice of intercommunion, never something like 'selective fellowship,' which is an invention of modern Americans. Elert in his last book, mentioned above, gives a convincing proof of this for the Ancient Church." Cf. the results of a study project on local ecumenism carried out recently by the Strasbourg Institute of Ecumenical Research, Lutheran World Information, Dec. 18, 1980, pp. 12-14. This study concluded: "The transcending of old divisions means in many places the creation of new divisions. Congregationalism is often promoted at the cost of loyalty to individual confessional families and the whole church. Two congregations which belong to the same ecclesial family but find themselves in different geographical locations are in danger of estranging each other by their individual 'ecumenical efforts'-mostly made without reciprocal information. A local 'unity' with others can lead to separation from those congregations who belong to the same ecclesial family but live in other places."

[60] Cf. FC SD, VII, 33: "Dr. Luther, who understood the true intention of the Augsburg Confession better than any one else, remained by it steadfastly and defended it constantly until he died. Shortly before his death, in his last confession, he repeated his faith in this article with great fervor and wrote as follows: 'I reckon them all as belonging together (that is, as Sacramentarians and enthusiasts), for that is what they are who will not believe that the Lord's bread in the supper is his true, natural body, which the godless or Judas receive orally as well as St. Peter and all the saints. Whoever, I say, will not believe this, will please let me alone and expect no fellowship from me. This is final.'"

[61] Cf. "Theology of Fellowship," p. 18. "Though the subject of pulpit and altar fellowship is not discussed expressis verbis in the Lutheran Confessions, these confessions themselves became the effective limits for pulpit and altar fellowship for Lutherans. Those who subscribed to them were automatically in pulpit and altar fellowship with one another. Those who did not subscribe to them, but adhered to other confessions, were, according to the Preface to the Book of Concord, not condemned as heretics; the Lutherans could even 'have special sympathy with them.' However, church fellowship, communicatio in sacris, with them was impossible. This followed inevitably from the doctrine of the church as it is contained in the Lutheran Confessions."

[62] Ibid., p. 19: "Free conferences for members from all Lutheran groups who 'subscribed to the Augsburg Confession without reservation' were held for the purpose of discussion of doctrine at Columbus, Ohio, in 1856; at Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1857; at Cleveland, Ohio, in 1858; and at Ft. Wayne, Ind., in 1859."

[63] There was disagreement on the question as to whether pastors and congregations should subscribe to The Book of Concord insofar as (quatenus) or because (quia) it is a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.

[64] In 1872 President C.P. Krauth set forth the General Council's understanding of pulpit and altar fellowship: "I. The Rule is: Lutheran pulpits are for Lutheran ministers only. Lutheran altars are for Lutheran communicants only. II. The Exceptions belong to the sphere of privilege, not of right. III. The determination of the exceptions is to be made in consonance with these principles, by the conscientious judgment of pastors, as the cases arise." This statement was amended by the addition after the word "Rule" of "which accords with the Word of God and with the Confessions of our Church" at an 1875 conference held in Galesburg, Ill.--hence the name "Galesburg Rule" (The Encyclopedia of the Lutheran Church, 1965 ed., s.v. "Galesburg Rule").

[65] Separatism, defined by Webster's Third New International Dictionary as "a disposition toward secession or schism," is an ecclesiastical term used to refer to a separation between Christians for unscriptural reasons. The constitution of the LCMS states in its first objective that the Synod shall "conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy" (Convention Proceedings, 1979, p. 104).

[66] Unionism, defined by the Synod as "church-fellowship with the adherents of false doctrine, as disobedience to God's command, as causing divisions in the Church, Rom 16:17; 2 John 9, 10, and as involving the constant danger of losing the Word of God entirely, 2 Tim. 2:17-21" (see the "Brief Statement," par. 28), is a term which has come into use in connection with the efforts of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia to effect a union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches in his realm in 1817. The constitution of the LCMS lists as one of the conditions of membership the "renunciation of unionism and syncretism of every description" (Art. VI, 2).

[67] See "Theology of Fellowship," pp. 20 f. Cf. also C.F.W. Walther, "Why Should Our Pastors, Teachers, and Professors Subscribe Unconditionally to the Symbolical Writings of Our Church," Concordia Theological Monthly (April 1947), pp. 241-53.

[68] Charter members of this organization were six synods which had previously declared themselves to be in altar and pulpit fellowship with each other.

[69] Resolution 3-15, Convention Proceedings, 1969, pp. 96 ff. This understanding of the meaning of pulpit and altar fellowship had previously been accepted in substance by the national and District presidents of The American Lutheran Church and The Missouri Synod.

[70] Cf. Toward Fellowship, p. 13. This brochure was distributed throughout the LCMS by President Oliver Harms prior to 1969 in response to 1967 Resolution 3-23. This document states: "The same doctrinal requirements obtain for establishing church merger as for establishing altar and pulpit fellowship. The practice of fellowship would be essentially the same under either arrangement. Either arrangement offers the same demands and the same latitude with respect to fellowship. If church bodies wish to form a church merger or some other type of association, then it is assumed they are prepared to make the necessary structural or organizational adjustments. Under the altar and pulpit fellowship being proposed now, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod will be free to give full expression to its fraternal relations while maintaining simultaneously its operational and institutional autonomy." Cf. also 1971 Resolution 3-26, which states: "Resolved, That The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod restate its desire to initiate and work toward fellowship with those Lutheran churches with whom it is not in altar and pulpit fellowship, and continue to work toward a greater degree of unity with those with whom it is in altar and pulpit fellowship, and that the activity proceed as follows: 1) Multilevel discussion of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions with those Lutheran churches with whom we are not in fellowship in order to seek agreement in doctrine and practice leading to a declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship. These discussions may serve to provide guidelines for additional cooperative activity; 2) Declaration of altar and pulpit fellowship by a majority vote of the church delegates assembled in church convention after the President of the Synod and the CTCR make a recommendation in the matter; 3) Continued negotiations to find the proper ensuing steps to implement additional forms of cooperative activity; and be it further Resolved, That The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod express the position that, at this time, it is primarily oriented toward altar and pulpit fellowship and further cooperative activities, rather than organic union" (Convention Proceedings, 1971, p. 139).

[71] Cf. "A Lutheran Stance Toward Ecumenism," p. 9: "Since the sphere of ecumenical endeavors is properly the Una Sancta, it is self- evident that the goal of such efforts is not to create the unity of the church (unitas, Einigkeit der Kirche). The unitas of the Una Sancta is given with the faith that joins all Christians to their one Head, Christ, and to each other in the little holy flock which is without sect or schism (LC, II, 51). The unity of the church is the presupposition, not the goal, of ecumenical endeavors (AC, Preface, 10)."

[72] Elert, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries, p. 4. Elert points out that Martin Luther also understood fellowship in this way. Says Elert: "Luther proceeded differently. He was uneasy about the theological use of the word fellowship (Gemeinschaft). Even in translating 1 Cor. 10:16 he hesitated to use it. In his Large Confession of the Lord's Supper (1528) he traced the misunderstanding of his opponents partially to this word. 'It is not the genuinely German equivalent as I would like to have it, for to have fellowship is ordinarily understood as meaning to have something to do with a person. Here (1 Cor. 10:16), however, it means, as I have explained earlier, many using, enjoying, or having part in a common thing. I have had to translate 'fellowship' because I simply could not find a better word.'"

[73] Ibid., p. 3. Elert attributes this understanding of fellowship to the continuing influence of Friedrich Schleiermacher. Writes Elert (p. 2): "For him [Schleiermacher] the church is above all 'a fellowship' (Gemeinschaft). He says in his Glaubenslehre (Par. 2, 2) that in order to know what the Christian church is one must first establish the general concept of the church together with a right understanding of what is characteristically Christian.' He goes on to say, 'The general concept of the church, if there is to be such a thing, must be derived from ethics because the church at all events is a fellowship created by the voluntary actions of men, and only through these does it continue to exist.' That certainly fixes the idea of fellowship. Since a fellowship arises through the voluntary actions of men and continues to exist only through such actions, the church, since it is a fellowship, arises in the same way, that is, only through 'the voluntary actions of men.' ... The concept of fellowship which is here said to characterize the church does not derive from the nature of the church, but the nature of the church is derived from the concept of fellowship. ... Behind this procedure lies the idealist conception of man and a view of the church which already has a long history with the English Independents and in the German Enlightenment."

[74] In making this recommendation the CTCR is renewing a recommendation which it made in its 1966 report "Theology of Fellowship." See the "Suggested Guidelines for the Church in the Practice of Fellowship" (pp. 29-30). In this report the Commission made several recommendations (referred to as "Scripturally sound, and in harmony with the Lutheran Confessions"), including the following: "Our Synod should treasure the fellowship in the Gospel and in the sacraments which it enjoys with its sister churches and which it expressed through what is usually called pulpit and altar fellowship, and it should foster this fellowship with all diligence. ... Our Synod should work zealously for the extension of this fellowship by engaging in doctrinal discussions with other churches in the interest of achieving such fellowship where this can be done without compromising sound doctrine. ... Our Synod will be well advised to retain the principle that Scriptural practice is important for church fellowship. When ecclesiastical practice is in harmony with Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, the church is edified. On the other hand, when ecclesiastical practice constitutes a denial of the Gospel, the work of the church is undermined." This report was adopted by the Synod in 1967 (Res. 2-13).

[75] Church body A is in altar and pulpit fellowship with church body B but not church body C, while church body B is in fellowship with both church body A and church body C.

[76] Article VI of the constitution of The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, for example, requires the renunciation of "taking part in the services and sacramental rites of heterodox congregations or of congregations of mixed confession."

[77] Cf. Roland Wiederaenders, Circuit Counselor's Manual, rev. ed., 1979, p. 5: "All the members of the Synod, congregations, pastors and teachers are to consider the rules and regulations of the Synod as applicable to them. Resolutions of the Synod are to be respected not because the Synod is a legislative body which legislates for its members, but because such resolutions are the expression of the majority and because Christian love asks that for the sake of peace and harmony we submit ourselves one to another in the fear of God. If a congregation or another member of the Synod is convinced that a resolution is not in harmony with the Word of God, such a member should seek to demonstrate that conviction from holy Scripture, not merely to assert that it is a conviction and ignore the resolutions of the Synod. Such resolutions of the Synod are adopted in order to carry out the objectives of the Synod--objectives to which members of the Synod pledge themselves when they sign the constitution of the Synod."


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