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Published: Saturday, 12/31/2011

Lutheran church bodies discuss ecumenical issues

Leaders of the Lutheran Church -- Missouri Synod and the North American Lutheran Church have held initial discussions on theological and ecumenical issues facing each church body as well as potential areas of cooperation.

The North American church, which organized in August, 2010, in Columbus, had also committed itself in its formal ecumenical statement to meetings with the Missouri Synod. Today, the church body, characterized by its commitment to biblical and confessional Lutheranism, has more than 300 congregations and 100,000 baptized members.

At the meeting, held Dec. 15 and 16 in St. Louis, the North American church was represented by Bishop John Bradosky, Emeritus Bishop Paull Spring, retired seminary professor James Nestingen, ministry coordinator the Rev. David Wendel, and the Rev. Mark Chavez, general secretary.

Missouri Synod representatives were Matthew C. Harrison, its president, Dr. Albert B. Collver III, director of church relations, and assistant to the president, the Rev. John Pless, director of field education and assistant professor in pastoral ministry and missions at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; Joel D. Lehenbauer, executive director of the synod's commission on theology and church relations, and the Rev. Larry M. Vogel, associate executive director of the commission. Robert Bugbee, president of the Lutheran Church-Canada, attended as a formal observer.

"The NALC fervently desires to take the Scriptures and the Lutheran confession seriously," Mr. Harrison said in a statement.

"These men are creedal Christians who share our own convictions on fundamental issues of life and sexuality. We do have real differences, and they will not be easily overcome. But the outcome is the Lord's."

Added Bishop Bradosky, "Our dialogue transcended all of our hopes and expectations. The level of openness, honesty, and trust evident in our conversations was commensurate with those whose relationship had spanned years. That experience may be based on the fact that our common commitment to biblical authority and theological integrity has spanned many years to our formal meeting."

Leaders of the two churches are to meet again in May in Columbus.

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