by Rev. Jerry Kieschnick
As I prepare this column, the campaigns leading up to the Nov. 4 general election still are raging. (By the time you read this, we probably will know who our next president will be—though with the possibility of “hanging chads,” I can’t be too certain!)
Throughout the campaign, our country has seemed divided. It’s been Republicans versus Democrats versus independents, and conservatives versus liberals versus the fence-sitters. Newscasters and reporters have emphasized and highlighted the differences and disagreements among Americans.
Notwithstanding all that, I remain thankful to God that I am an American citizen, with freedoms and blessings unequaled in most, if not all, of the world. And finally, it is commitment to the Constitution and love of our country that unites us as Americans.
In our Synod, too, people don’t always see various matters of importance from the same perspective.
For example, congregations may have to decide whether to build a new sanctuary or a new fellowship hall—or nothing at all. They may debate what musical instruments should be used in worship; the gender of acolytes and lectors; or whether to support a school with offerings, tuition, or neither. Should the congregation leave its historic location for the suburbs, or figure out how to engage the new neighbors that now surround their stately but nearly empty church building?
Decisions on which good and faithful people may disagree are not restricted to congregations. Our national Synod also sees its share of discussions and even disagreements about matters of faith and life. It is our privilege, duty, and responsibility as a synod prayerfully and carefully to discern what God’s Word says about such matters as close(d) Communion, non-traditional worship, the service of women in the church, the role and authority of the pastoral office, and the priesthood of all believers.
At times, differing perspectives on these and other topics among us result in disharmony and disagreement. At such times it behooves us to search Holy Scripture as we endeavor to achieve agreement in those areas of faith and life where disagreement currently exists.
Yet, the fact is that our church body is blessed with significant, if not unparalleled, agreement in what we believe, teach, and confess. There’s not enough room on this page to list everything on which we agree, but here’s a sample (for a longer list, go online to www.lcms.org?13380):
- That there is only one true God, who has revealed Himself in Holy Scripture as the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- That this God created the world and everything in it, including the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, in six days.
- That since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, all people are born with original sin and are altogether incapable of pleasing God by their own merits.
- That God promised a Savior to Adam and Eve and, through them, to all people.
- That this Savior is Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, through whom alone we receive forgiveness of sin, life, and salvation.
- That Christians are called to proclaim to a lost and dying world the Good News that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.
- That the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament are the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice.
- That the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church are a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.
Some church bodies debate the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, and His bodily resurrection. I am not aware of anyone in our Synod who questions these doctrines. Other church bodies debate the ordination of homosexual pastors who are living in “committed relationships.” That question isn’t even on our radar screen, because we have agreed that homosexual behavior is intrinsically sinful. I thank God for our unity in Christ!
As we approach the Thanksgiving season, I also thank God for the blessing of being an American citizen and a member of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Indeed, we have been blessed to be a blessing!