Mathew Block, the communications director of the Lutheran Church Canada who writes for the First Things blog, praises the re-election of Matt Harrison to the presidency of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He cites “another topic worthy of discussion in considering President Harrison’s first term—namely, the LCMS’ increasingly friendly relations with other church bodies.”
We’ve seen some of that, of course, in the reaction to the HHS mandate. In addition to testify with other Christians at congress on the matter, President Harrison has been a signatory to a number of letters along with other religious leaders expressing concern about the mandate, most recently a few days ago. It’s led to especially collegial relations with Roman Catholics, with President Harrison writing a letter in June of last year thanking the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for their defense of religious freedom. (The growing relationship between confessional Lutherans and Catholics around the world is something I’ve addressed elsewhere on First Things. Up here in Canada, something similar is going on as Lutheran Church–Canada and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops recently began talks).
But the LCMS’ relationships with other churches have also been growing over the past few years as well. In particular, the LCMS, along with its sister church, Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC), has developed good relations with the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), publishing last year a joint statement rejoicing that they can “jointly affirm core teachings (articles) of the Christian faith shared by our church bodies.” Similarly good relations have been developed with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), with whom the LCMS and LCC are in continuing talks. Representatives of these four church bodies (ACNA, NALC, LCC, and LCMS) recently met together for an ecumenical summit on marriage and sexuality, publishing a joint affirmation on marriage (signed by the heads of all four churches) shortly thereafter.
The LCMS’ growing interchurch relations are not restricted to North America either. While the LCMS has long been part of the International Lutheran Council, the church is more and more developing relationships with biblical Lutherans outside this group. In particular, churches like the 6.1 million member Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), who earlier this year cut off ties to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Church of Sweden, have begun seeking new relationships with the LCMS and other confessional Lutherans. In March, for example, the EECMY’s General Secretary visited LCMS leaders in St. Louis to “strengthen the relationship” they’ve already been building. And the LCMS held an “International Conference on Confessional Leadership” last year in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 120 Lutheran church leaders from around the world attending.
If the past few years are anything to go by, this growing interest in strong relationships between the LCMS and other confessing Christian churches is likely to continue into President Harrison’s second term. I for one couldn’t be more pleased.