Friday, February 26, 2016

ACNA, LCC, and LCMS "On Closer Acquaintance"

The participants in ecumenical dialogue between the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC)  released an interim report entitled “On Closer Acquaintance.” After some six years of work together, the document is the brings to bear the topics of discussion between the three church bodies and gives testimony to the significant doctrinal agreement discovered between the Anglican and Lutheran participants.  While it is surely not yet enough to even begin to talk about altar and pulpit fellowship, it is significant because the participants are not dodging the thorny issues that have divided them in the past and both are approaching this seriously and with the goal and intent of a more fruitful common life and witness.  This is not for show but an earnest reappraisal of history and of the circumstances that have left both groups on the outside of their own traditions in a time when the typical path of church bodies is to diverge from Scripture, doctrine, and objective truth.  Their nervous words that belied fears that nothing would happen have been answered by a warmth and progress that has surprise them and their own church bodies.  It is a surprise of joy which should give us all pause.

When our open-ended conversations began six years ago, some of the signatories to this report approached our task with a mixture of low expectations and a certain nervousness before the unknown. All of us are somewhat surprised to have discovered the deep common bonds between us in the Body of Christ, and to have registered the large measure of consensus that we have documented above. We regard these things that we have discovered together as a gift of the Lord, and trust Him to use our findings to His glory and to the good of the universal Church. 

As we commend this report to the people and clergy of ACNA, LCMS, and LCC, we encourage Lutherans and Anglicans to remember each other in prayer, embrace one another in Christian love, to encourage each other to confess Christ boldly in our ever darkening times, and to support each other in mission and outreach in faithfulness to Him who has laid the same Great Commission on us all.


Those are the words that concluded that statement by the Anglican Church in North America and Lutheran Church Canada and Lutheran Church Missouri Synod representatives from an extended conversation that was remarkable in both tone and content.  Though they admit that the groups are in a state of imperfect communion,  the groups are intent upon serious discussion of the differences and commonalities of two groups that share a different past but, it seems, a future that will draw them together.  In an age in which minimalism is the theme of doctrine and truth, both groups are determined to forge a consensus based upon the maximum confession of doctrine and truth in all its articles.  Perhaps this will become the model for the future as conservative groups within the broader Anglican communion and Lutherans unwilling to go the route of reconciled diversity seek to find strength in unity and unity built upon Scripture and faithful confession.  Time will tell.

I can only encourage you to read the entire report and to give the dialogue your prayerful support.  It represents a unique moment for both Lutheran groups in a minority among liberal Christian bodies in America and for Anglicans who shaking off the jurisdiction and order to face the more urgent issues of what is to be believed.  Who would have thought that a day like this might come when serious minded Christians intent upon affirming the Scriptures, catholic doctrine, and truth would begin to turn their paths toward one another?  I certainly did not foresee it. 

For those who continue to fear such serious minded ecumenical conversations, I would encourage you to look at the caliber of the individuals who represent all sides.  These are serious individuals, not prone to whim or fancy, who are committed not to a quick fix but a long term process in which the integrity of the work will stand and whatever unity results will be positive and bear good fruit.  I commend them.

The Rev. Ronald Allen, Anglican Church in North America
The Rev. Dr. Frederic W. Baue. Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
The Rev. Peter Frank, Anglican Church in North America
The Rt. Rev. David L. Hicks, Anglican Church in North America
The Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
The Rev. Canon Dr. Jonathan S. Riches, Anglican Church in North America
The Rev. Dr. Lawrence Rast, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
The Rev. Dr. John Stephenson, Lutheran Church–Canada
The Rt. Rev. Ray R. Sutton, Anglican Church in North America
The Rev. Larry Vogel, The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is indeed good news. As a former LCMS member but now Continuing Anglican, I agree the two bodies have much in common theologically. But I wish the "other" Continuing Anglican bodies would have been engaged in this dialogue. These other Anglican bodies include the Anglican Province of America, the Anglican Church of America, the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of Christ the King etc. The primary reason these other Continuing Anglican churches haven't joined with the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) is over the ordination of woman. ACNA will not make a final decision on the matter. ACNA must stop studying the issue and make a decision. And I pray that decision is the ordination of woman is contrary to Scripture and the church catholic.

But all in all, this dialogue is a good thing. The LCMS confessionals will say there must be 100% theological agreement before there can be alter and pulpit fellowship. I got it. But to be honest, I'd argue there is more agreement (both theologically and in liturgical practice) between confessional Lutherans and orthodox Anglicans than confessional Lutherans and the wing of the LCMS (which I believe is quite large) that are wannabe Baptists/evangelicals.

James

Carl Vehse said...

"Which of our differences are church-divisive, and which represent legitimate plurality within the one Church of Christ?"

It is disturbing that this question is asked, even worse that the obvious Lutheran answer was left unstated!

"At this stage we walk the middle path of what our RC friends call “imperfect communion.” We aim here to draw upon our respective formularies from the Reformation period and, where possible, also the modern era, to establish the range and degree of consensus that exists between us on major articles of faith and their consequences for churchly practice."

This is nothing but a Lufauxran dive into the muddy heterodox pool of selective fellowship. No doubt C.F.W. Walther is barfing in his mausoleum.

"The theologians of 17th-century Lutheran Orthodoxy taught that, as the Church becomes visible through the means of grace, she is seen to be the 'synthetic' or 'composite' Church (ecclesia synthetica), composed of laity and clergy."

This contradicts the Lutheran Confessions, as understood by Lutheran theologians, Kirche und Amt, and officially by the Missouri Synod. The invisible Church does not become visible. The marks of the Church are visible. In his Christian Dogmatics, J.T. Mueller states: "All who affirm that the Church is either wholly (papists) or partly (modern Lutheran theologians) visible destroy the Scriptural concept of the Church and change it from a communion of believers to an 'outward polity of the good and the wicked'."

"LCMS–LCC understand the instituting words and deeds of Christ, authoritatively interpreted by the apostles, to preclude the ordination of women to while being engaged at the present time in a consensus-seeking discussion with the minority within its midst that takes the opposite view."

"On Closer Acquaintance" confirms the heterodoxy of the ACNA. And the report raises concerns about the fidelity to orthodoxy of its other signatories.

Carl Vehse said...

The last quote from the report should read:

"LCMS–LCC understand the instituting words and deeds of Christ, authoritatively interpreted by the apostles, to preclude the ordination of women to the office of pastor (presbyter/bishop). The majority within ACNA holds this position, while being engaged at the present time in a consensus-seeking discussion with the minority within its midst that takes the opposite view."

Anonymous said...

"But to be honest, I'd argue there is more agreement (both theologically and in liturgical practice) between confessional Lutherans and orthodox Anglicans than confessional Lutherans and the wing of the LCMS (which I believe is quite large) that are wannabe Baptists/evangelicals."

The LCMS changed in the early 20th century from German to English, with much confessional Lutheran doctrine displaced by generic Protestant theology.

The LCMS changed in the early 21st century from CPH publications to Saddleback and Willow Creek worship and study materials, with much confessional Lutheran doctrine displaced by generic Protestant theology.

Ah, now I see the pattern, Pastor Peters!

Carl Vehse said...

James: "But to be honest, I'd argue there is more agreement (both theologically and in liturgical practice) between confessional Lutherans and orthodox Anglicans"

Given that the ACNA ordains pastrixes, we'll have to wait until we find those elusive unicorns, "orthodox Anglicans."

Anonymous said...

Dr. Strickert,

I sense you simply want to make a point. Please reread my original post. The other continuing Anglican bodies identified in my earlier post DO NOT ordain women. And it's the primary reason they have not joined with ACNA. Again, ACNA is not the only option for continuing Anglicans.

James

Carl Vehse said...

The ACNA includes the following entities:

The American Anglican Council
The Anglican Coalition in Canada
The Anglican Communion Network
The Anglican Mission in the Americas
The Anglican Network in Canada
The Convocation of Anglicans in North America
Forward in Faith – North America
The Missionary Convocation of Kenya
The Missionary Convocation of the Southern Cone
The Missionary Convocation of Uganda
The Reformed Episcopal Church

Other than the Anglican Church of South Sudan, which is holding talks with the Missouri Synod about becoming Lutheran, what other Anglican church bodies are considered by or talking with Lutherans about being an orthodox church body?

Aaron Carlson said...

As a High Church-leaning member of the LCMS... I have to disagree with you wholly. The church HAS to be both invisible AND visible. If the church is not invisible, then it ceases to be catholic (not universal)… But if the church is not visible than it ceases to be evangelical (no sacraments).

"The church is wherever the gospel is proclaimed, and the sacraments are administered..."

The universality of the church is that it exists wherever the gospel is preached, and the sacraments are given out according to that gospel… However, in order for the church then to manifest itself there needs to be word and sacraments. And last time I checked, sacraments use tangible/visible elements.

Bottom line, it's true… That we must not fall into the Papist error saying that there is only the "Church Visible", the church is just an institution centered in Rome - papal supremacy, and apostolic succession.

But likewise, we must not fall into the Reformed/Protestant error of saying that there is only the "Church Invisible", just the "unknowable" body of "true believers/elect". That the sacraments mean nothing.

I have more fear of falling into the second error in the Missouri Synod.