Monday, December 18, 2006

The New Agenda for the Synod: LWF

I knew that those of more liberal persusions within the LCMS were becoming increasingly bold in their rhetoric, especially since the '04 synodical convenion. It's still interesting, however, to see what new direction they are willing to push without impunity. The latest directions to expect can be found in a recent DayStar Journal article by Robert Schmidt entitled "The Ecumenical Vision." Toward the end of the article Schmidt lays the cards on the table with this call:

"Ecumenical involvement for the LCMS should not be just an afterthought but should figure prominently in a new agenda for the synod. Joining our sister church bodies around the world, congregations should submit resolutions to the next synodical convention to apply for at least associate membership in the Lutheran World Federation. "

Historically the LCMS has resisted membership in the LWF (Lutheran World Federation) at any level. We have understood, however, that it is acceptable in the wider community of Christians to "cooperate in externals." LWR (Lutheran World Relief) within synod has long held to this principle and continues to coordinate its relief and assistance efforts with other Chrisitian groups and denominations, including the ELCA. But before anyone confuses this with what Schmidt is recommending, let's take a moment to examine just what the LWF is really all about.

For a brief explanation of the history and work of the Lutheran World Relief, check out the short Wickipedia article here. It should be noted that the LWF is not strictly a relief agency. It is also interested in persuing doctrinal consensus as well, and this it seeks with more than just other Lutherans. Of special note is the document known as the JDDJ, or the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification," which the LWF was very instrumental in bringing about in 1999, and ceremoniously presented on the Day of Reformation that year. This document was touted by liberal-minded Lutherans as the virtual end of the our greatest division with the Roman Catholic Church. We were now agreed on the central doctrine of our faith! Yet a careful study of this document will show otherwise, for those willing to see that it is possible to use the same words with diferent meanings. No, Rome and Wittenberg still have very different views of justification. The book by Robert Preus, published posthumously, entitled Justifcation and Rome, will shed valuable light on this subject.

So, before we jump onto the LWF bandwagon, let us ask ourselves: Do we really want to be associated with a group that has essentially misrepresented the divisions between Rome and Wittenberg on the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls?

Again, before we embrace Schmidt's openness to all that is LWF, we should should also take a long and hard look at just what they believe and confess. Has Schmidt honestly read what they say? If so, I am even more concerned....

For example, if you are interested in what the LWF teaches, check out their statement on Missions. The various chapters of their Mission statement "Transformation, Reconcilliation, Empowerment," can be found here. Without reading too deeply the mere presence of the rather socialistic sounding word "empowerment" is alarming enough. For 'empowerment' seems too often to lead down the road of anti-government, anti-establishment socialistic reordering of society. Mission becomes defined then as 'empowering' the poor and downtroden to have a better life now, leaving the questions of eternity left behind in vague uncertainties.

Consider a few of these quotes from this document:

On the cross and suffering -

"In reality, in the depths of every oppression and exclusion, as experienced in context, is the crucified God. However, Christ’s crucifixion neither sanctifies unjust suffering nor provides a model for how suffering should be borne. Rather, it is a witness to God’s desire that no one should suffer violence. The way of the cross is a way of reconciliation and empowerment."

Or how about this on the Resurrection of our Lord -

"Christ’s resurrection is the single event that has deeply transformed the world. Violence, death, and the terror that its finality brings no longer have the last word. Resurrection opened a new reality of liberation and hope for humankind and the whole creation. God is reconciled with humankind and creation through Christ’s death and resurrection. God also opened up reconciliation between human beings and between humankind and creation. Moreover, Christ’s resurrection reveals the true nature of things. Creation itself takes on a new dimension. Every created thing, every moment and event, is pregnant with life-giving potentialities; nothing is allowed to have finality, even would-be “dead ends” are transformed into opportunities for mission. The way of resurrection is a way of transformation and empowerment."

Further reading of the document will reveal a very different concept of mission than the LCMS has traditionally embraced, namely the proclamation of salvation through Christ Jesus. Instead, one will find here a missiology that bleeds into a mission about ecological awareness and political injustices, and even commerical globilization. The Kingdom of the Right and Left are horiblly confused and misunderstood, as is typical of liberal Christianity with its Marxist philosophy.

Finally, consider their approach to the mission of the church and other religions. While they talk easily about the mission and the Gospel in one breath, they essentially deny it with the other. As they say:

"The LWF Tenth Assembly stated in its message: “God’s mission is wider than the bounds of the church.” However, quoting from the WCC Mission and Evangelism Conference, San Antonio, 1996, it added: “We cannot point to any other way to salvation than Jesus Christ; at the same time we cannot set limits to the saving power of God. Coming to a positive understanding of the nature of missionary religions, and how to accommodate their need to propagate, can be a major theme in interfaith dialogues. However, interfaith dialogue should not aim at converting or winning over dialogue partners.”

Mission should not aim at converting unbelievers? Well, that kind of knocks the wind out of the church's sails, now doesn't it?

I would like to believe that Robert Schmidt does not truly understand the scope of the LWF's theological weaknesses. He talks of understanding our weaknesses, but misses the log in the eye of the LWF. Dear reader, listen to what is being said out there these days in places like DayStar. This is the coming agenda. This is the future some are looking for. Beware!

(P.S. For those wondeirng what the image is at the right, it is the logo of the Lutheran World Federation.)


The Heresy Hunter said...

Sounds like the LWF and the LCMS's attraction to it, is what happens when one becomes dissatisfied with carrying out the main mission of the church - preaching Law and Gospel.

D. Engebretson said...

Many on the left are enamoured by the thought of outward unity without true unity of faith. Preaching Law and Gospel gets in the way of this outward semblance of unity. If only they could understand the true nature of the church and what its mission really is. Those on the left want to morph it into a social gospel, and the Evangelicals among us want to morph it into a feel-good mega church which preaches pop-culture. Either way we miss the point.
Thanks for your comments!