The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod stand at opposite ends of theological pole on issues regarding homosexuality and womens ordination. However, when it comes to helping the poor and needy, the multi-million-member denominations stand side-by-side.
On June 30, the two churches signed a Statement of Collaboration that makes official the working relationship of both churches in ministering to people in emergency and disaster situations.
"Despite our theological differences, the agreement allows us to serve our neighbors in need," said Heather L. Feltman, director, Lutheran Disaster Response, a ministry of the ELCA and LCMS. Disaster response "is one area where there is agreement on
how we can work together strongly. It's a time for celebration."
Although the ELCA and LCMS represent the two largest Lutheran denominations in the U.S. with five-million and two-million members respectively, they differ significantly on their standards of ordination. Next week, the ELCA, which already ordains celibate homosexuals, will consider passing a resolution that would allow homosexuals in monogamous sexually active relationships on the pulpit. The LCMS, on the other hand, prohibits all homosexuals from leadership; it is one of the few churches that also prohibit women from the ministry.
However, these difference aside, the two churches have agreed to cooperate in a portion of their domestic disaster relief efforts, according to their statement.
The statement identifies six general principles of cooperation and coordination between the ELCA and LCMS via Lutheran Disaster Response. According to the ELCA news service, these principles include:
-- Open communication and sharing of information regarding disaster recourses;
-- identifying the "best method" to develop, support and use resources;
-- encouraging individual Lutherans, congregations, synods of the ELCA and districts of the LCMS, Lutheran social ministry organizations and others to provide resources needed for disaster response preparation and response to specific disasters when they occur;
-- and staff of Lutheran Disaster Response discussing expenditures and maintaining Lutheran Disaster Response's "Manual of Standing Policies and Procedures," designed to supplement the Statement of Collaboration.
Lutherans have worked together on disaster response since 1987 when the ELCA was formed. However, the statement marks the first time such relationships were made official.
"We had worked through conversation and verbal agreements," said Feltman.
Lutheran Disaster Response provides emotional and spiritual care to people affected by disaster; allocates funds to support disaster response case management; processes "hardship grants" to congregations; and purchases building supplies to help rebuild homes. Lutheran Disaster Response and its partner organizations also provide training opportunities to help people prepare for when disaster may strike next.
For more information about Lutheran Disaster Response, visit: http://www.ELCA.org/dcs/disaster