The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Anglican Church in North America affirmed core teachings of the Christian faith they share and expressed hope to jointly fight some key social challenges, including homosexuality, abortion and secularism, after concluding the first round of theological discussions.
The cooperation between the two denominations is a reason for joy at a time when "there is a widespread failure to recognize the biblical teaching regarding the creation of man and woman and their biblical roles, life-issues, and other grave challenges that society faces," LCMS President the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison said in a statement Friday as the two bodies released a joint report summarizing the areas of agreement.
There are some differences in doctrine, Harrison agreed, but quoted a Lutheran theologian as saying that churches who can honestly discuss where they have disagreements in doctrine are in fact closer to each other than churches who cannot discuss such matters.
The dialogue, aimed at increasing the level of mutual understanding and affirmations between the church bodies, led to a joint affirmation of core Christian teachings the two denominations share. The discussions, which took place during four meetings over the past 18 months beginning the fall of 2010, also included a representative of the Lutheran Church-Canada.
The theological agreements include faith in the Trinity as per the Apostles,' Nicene, and Athanasian creeds; faith in one Lord Jesus Christ, God and Man, who is the savior of all the world; the Fall into sin and the reality that only by grace through faith in Christ can fallen human beings find justification and salvation; one Baptism for the remission of sins and the new life given through this sacrament; and that these truths are known through the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, the very Word of God written, which are the infallible basis for all church teaching.
Based on the areas of theological agreement, the churches also recognized "certain grave, particular challenges that we face today."
The joint report recognizes "a pervasive threat to the understanding of marriage as the life-long union of a man and woman as husband and wife and oppose any efforts to redefine marriage in any other terms."
The churches affirmed the biblical teaching that God intends sexuality only to be fully enacted within the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. "We oppose efforts within society or by some churches to view other sexual relationships as moral alternatives to heterosexual marriage."
The two bodies also believe there's a continuing threat to the most vulnerable of human beings, "especially the unborn, the aging, and the terminally ill, but also to those who suffer from calamity, poverty, sickness, persecution, and need." Additionally, they recognize "the threat to Christian evangelism and outreach caused by those forces which view the confession of one Lord, one faith, one Baptism as 'intolerance.'"
The churches felt they should consider "ways in which we may work together in the future." The report indicates the cooperation may take various forms, from practical matters such as sharing buildings to a commitment to pray for each other's congregations, institutions, and other ministries.
"Denominationally we look toward the possibility of joint statements on important issues facing our churches and our culture such as questions about homosexuality and abortion. We also anticipate opportunities to work together to address human needs like hunger, homelessness, and other ministries of mercy toward those in crisis."
The LCMS has more than 2.3 million baptized members in some 6,200 congregations and more than 9,000 pastors. And the ACNA unites some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 congregations across the United States and Canada. The ACNA was established among Anglicans who left The Episcopal Church over theological issues.
The Most Rev. Robert Duncan, archbishop and primate of the ACNA, said, "We look forward to continuing our work together for the Gospel through prayers, evangelism, dialogue, encouragement of one another, and joint efforts to help those in need."