I have been accused of saying things to get a reaction. I have been accused of being something of a “bomb thrower” when I get my dander up. I like to think that I can be reasonable and listen to reasoned debate. I don’t think I have ever been on a witch hunt or even condoned one but……
Back in April (blog for 4/19) we talked about cooperation in externals and how that works. The best explanation comes from President Harrison and can be found in “Theology for Mercy”.
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, or involve joint proclamation of the gospel and administration of the sacraments (worship).
A document called “Principles for Cooperation in Externals with Theological Integrity” and was prepared in response to Res. 3-03, which was adopted by delegates to the Missouri Synod’s 2010 convention. Part of that document says
The ELCA decisions regarding human sexuality have clearly provided a tipping point, leading people to question any joint work with the ELCA. A legitimate concern is expressed over activities that might confuse the LCMS with the ELCA. In addition, the validity of the concept of “cooperation in externals” is also open to question by many. A question arises: Can we remain faithful in our confession before the world when we cooperate with another church body that has openly repudiated critical aspects of that confession?
So the Presidents of the Districts of the LCMS were asked to develop more in-depth theological criteria for assessing cooperative endeavors, determining what would necessitate termination of such cooperative efforts,” provide an assessment of the current state of cooperation in externals and a full report of criteria for ongoing assessment of the same by July 13, 2011Whereas; Five questions were asked to specifically help in the judgment as to whether or not cooperation in externals can continue with a specific RSO; 1. Is the purpose of the joint work fully consistent with the positions, policies and objectives of the Synod? 2. Do cooperative efforts imply doctrinal unity with the ELCA or endorsement of ELCA positions on same-sex relationships or other matters of disagreement with the LCMS? 3. Does the joint agency or organization distinguish itself as an entity from the churches that support it? 4. Are all the policies and programs of the organization consonant with the doctrinal position of the LCMS? 5. Do the individuals who lead the organization openly support and encourage efforts, positions or policies which compromise the theological stance of the Synod?
Of course when all of this happned we start to hear the cry of “witch hunt”. Sadly, in many cases the cry of witch hunt is coming from members of the LCMS.
Bob Sanderson is a friend of mine and he is the CEO of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota. I and many other members of the LCMS have been on the Board of LSS of North Dakota. Bob is aware of the theological position of the LCMS and is very appreciative of the place we find ourselves. He recently published this letter online.
Recently there has been some information received from the LCMS about issues that could potentially arise between the LCMS and Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs), of which Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota is one.There was a conference call in August between President Matthew Harrison, some of his staff and about 20 CEOs of RSOs across the country. Hope Deutscher, our church relations coordinator, sat in on the call with me.
From the call, I can tell you that there is no witch hunt going on or any strong desire on the part of the LCMS to interfere in our working relationships. However, there is a strong feeling on the part of the LCMS that the RSOs must respect the theology and doctrine of the LCMS.
As an example, if Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota should receive a request from a gay couple wanting to adopt a child and the agency helps to expedite that adoption, then this would create a problem between our organizations. What the final result of this may be is uncertain at this time. The LCMS would definitely want to discuss such an issue with us. Whether it would cause the LCMS to no longer recognize us as an RSO is uncertain at this time.
To the best of our ability, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota will respect the doctrine of both the ELCA and LCMS. We want to continue working in partnership with all Lutherans in providing healing, help and hope to North Dakotans. We will keep you informed about any discussions that may take place in the future.
Thank you Bob for putting some light on this situation. Your leadership is appreciated. We should all tone down the rhetoric and try and work toward a common understanding to ligitimaely be able to work together with integrity to meet human need.