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Sunday
Worship: 8:30am & 10:30am
Christian Education: 9:20am
Offsite @ Kyrie: 5pm
 
Wednesday
Worship: 7:07pm (September-May)
 

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Trinity Lutheran Church is planted in the heart of the Fort Worth Cultural District

We are located at 3621 Tulsa Way at the corner of Montgomery Street and Camp Bowie (across from McDonalds). Tulsa Way intersects Montgomery Street just one block south of Camp Bowie Blvd., approximately one mile north of West Freeway (or I-30) about 1 mile west of Downtown Fort Worth.
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Daily Devotional

ELCA and the Missouri Synod-"Beyond Question" Q&A Series

 

This is part of our "Beyond Question" Lenten Series. Questions were requested from members of the congregation of all ages. Sunday school and Bible Study classes were polled and over 40 unique questions were collected. Each Sunday Worship service a new question will be drawn at random by a Trinity member and Pastor Gronberg or Pastor Mohn will answer that question on this blog the following week (typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays)...

The Question…”What are the differences between the ELCA and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod? Who is right/wrong?”

Again y'all ask challenging questions! First off, we won’t be answering the second part about who is right/wrong. The reason is that we believe that while there are significant differences in biblical interpretation, leadership and sacramental practices between the ELCA and LCMS it isn’t a matter of who is right or wrong. That sort of language simply polarizes and intensifies conversation rather than allowing for healthy and productive dialogue.  Additionally, everything below is a necessarily simplified interpretation of events for the sake of brevity and clarity of major points.

Please note that when the term ELCA is used below for events prior to its establishment in 1988 it implies the predecessor bodies. These are the two largest Lutheran denominations in the US. Currently the ELCA has about 5 million members and the LCMS has approximately 2 million members. 

Significant differences exist with the LCMS that we believe are the product of faithful disagreement over the interpretation of scripture and the historical practices of the church.  These differences have developed over time as the two traditions have different historical trajectories which led to different leadership decisions especially in the crux of the radical changes in society that occurred in the 1960’s and 1970’s. To understand these, it is important to understand the history.

Until the 1960/70’s the LCMS and the ELCA had led basically separate parallel lives. This is important to note. There was never a time when the Missouri Synod and the predecessor bodies of the ELCA were unified. They have always been seperate organizations. They confessed the same creeds, confessions and basically worshipped in the same ways, but they did not share pastors or seminary education. In the 1960’s when the first great round of Lutheran church mergers was taking place, the LCMS and the ALC (the body that Trinity was a part of) came very close to their own merger. However, the LCMS decided not to do so at the last minute. This decision echoed a reoccurring fear in the LCMS of becoming too intertwined with others, risking, in their terms, heterodoxy (as opposed to orthodoxy or right-teaching).

The separation between the LCMS and the ELCA became solidified in the early 1970’s when the ELCA began the process of ordaining woman into pastoral leadership. This decision reflected a commitment on the part of the ELCA to biblical interpretation that included historical criticism. Continuing traditional Lutheran practice the ELCA affirms that the scriptures are the “inspired Word of God” however unlike the LCMS it rejects the more recently added word “inerrant.” Additionally, in the ELCA bodies there was a willingness to believe that God’s spirit was still active in the church allowing for dramatic changes in historical practice such as the inclusion in leadership of those previously excluded.

The LCMS chose to go a dramatically different direction which culminated in the 1976 controversy known as Seminex. The President of Concordia Seminary-St. Louis, John Tietjen (who would later be pastor at Trinity), and the President of the Missiori Synod, Jacob A.O. Preus, would come into conflict over the teachings of some of the professors at the seminary, largely around the issues listed above. This conflict would lead to the firing of almost the entire faculty of the seminary and the subsequent walkout of 90% of the students in protest. These teachers and students would later come to form the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches which would, in 1988, join the ELCA.

Since that time, the LCMS has clung tightly to what it claims to be the orthodox Lutheran positions and very traditional teachings on various social issues of the day. It has also adopted a more fundamentalist understanding of the bible, advocated traditional roles for women and men, and restricted communion only to those who are active members “in good standing” of an LCMS church. To its credit, the LCMS is very concerned and focused on right doctrine and teaching in accordance with their interpretation of the bible and confessions.

However, the extremes of these positions are seen most vividly in the controversy and ultimate forced apology of an LCMS pastor who took part in a prayer service after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in CT. Because the pastor prayed at a gathering that included prayers led by non-orthodox Christians (Roman Catholics, ELCA, Methodists, Baptists) he was subjected to church discipline.

The ELCA took a very different turn at that time in the 1970’s and since has become a much more theologically diverse (if not culturally or racially) body. Woman are accorded the same official status in the church, communion is held open to all who desire to receive (membership is not required) and scholars are relatively free to debate and write as they feel is faithful to their tradition and the text. In 2009 the ELCA also voted to allow congregations who wished to call ordained individuals who are in a monogamous same-gender relationship, to serve as pastor.  The ELCA also has engaged in many full-communion agreements with other Christian denominations notably the Episcopal Church-USA, the Prebyterian Church-USA, the United Methodists and Moravians.

The ELCA and LCMS do still cooperate in the areas of disaster response and world hunger relief. However, those relationships are often strained by accusations between the two of fundamentalism or heterodoxy. Thankfully cooler heads have, so far, prevailed and we are able to do this important work together.

Ultimately the distinctions between the ELCA and LCMS come down to three main issues, outlined above. These are interpretation of scripture, which leads to the role of women and the practices around the sacrament of communion. At this point the strength of the two positions of the two bodies does not seem to hold out much hope for potential unity in the future. As a result, perhaps we can give thanks that God has chosen to allow for different expressions of Lutheranism to exist in a country where religious preference is, blessedly, a choice.