We’ve heard it before – that the church is to “preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments ” and that is all. Sometime congregations wanting to “do something” to help neighbors in need seek to work with a community organizations and are told that they can’t because they “don’t share our confession”. Sometimes we are held back from doing good and pious work because it might mean cooperating with another church organizations and Pastor says “no”.
One of the great experiences of my life was serving on the Board of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. the first thing we did as a Board was ask ourselves why we did what we did as a Board and what was Lutheran about Lutheran Church Missouri Synod World Relief and Human Care? What was “Lutheran” about caring for humans and if we couldn’t find a theological rational perhaps we should let the Red Cross do it all. The work under the leadership of Matthew Harrison resulted in the “Theology for Mercy” and here is a piece of it.
“The church will cooperate with others in meeting human need. Cooperation in externals has long been an expression describing the church’s legitimate ability to cooperate with other entities (whether churches, societies, Lutheran, Christian or not) in meeting some human need. To “cooperate in externals” means to work toward common goals in endeavors, which do not necessitate, require or necessarily imply church fellowship (communio in sacris), or involve joint proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments (worship). Such cooperative endeavors are entered upon often for practical reasons (e.g. lack of critical resources). But such endeavors are also often an expression of the belief (when entered into with other Christians entities) of the catholicity of the church (See Formula of Concord, Preface; Tappert p. 11), as well as an expression of love for fellow Christians. Through such endeavors, the LCMS will often have opportunity to insist on theological integrity, and the truth of God’s word, and thereby make a positive contribution to ecumenical activities. Such endeavors may range from providing resources for a simple community food bank, to the highly complex ecclesial and civil realities involved in operating a jointly recognized SMO. Such endeavors must recognize legitimate doctrinal differences, and provide for the requisite integrity of its partners.”
There are great reasons to participate with other entities in alleviating human need or addressing local issues. In the next blog I will show you one little incident that had tremendous consequences.