The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod may enter an altar and pulpit fellowship agreement with the American Association of Lutheran Churches, assuming official theological discussions between the two groups continue to fare well.
According to the LCMS news service, the top leaders of the two denominations met on March 22 in St. Louis, during which dates for official theological discussions were set.
The 2.5-million-member LCMS is the second largest Lutheran denomination in the US, and is one of the most traditional and conservative mainline churches in the nation. The AALC meanwhile has some 11,732 members in 83 congregations.
The AALC is made up primarily of congregations that chose not to become members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America when it was formed in 1987. The ELCA, with five million members, is the largest U.S. Lutheran denomination, and is largely moderate in its theological and social viewpoint.
The ELCA and LCMS do not share an altar and pulpit fellowship, and their theological standpoints especially on social issues like homosexuality are often at odds. However, ELCA and LCMS representatives continue to meet twice a year to discuss topics in disaster relief and mission strategies.
Meanwhile, the LCMS and AALC will be meeting again in Oct. 6 for theological discussions, this time in Albuquerque, N.M.
"We had a very positive meeting with the AALC representation," said LCMS President Gerald B. Kieschnick. "Each of our church bodies accepts the Holy Scriptures as the inspired and inerrant Word of God, and both accept the Lutheran Confessions without qualification as the correct exposition of the Scriptures."
The AALC Presiding Pastor, Rev. Thomas Aadland, agreed, adding, "The basis clearly exists for discussing our respective positions on a number of specific issues such as church and ministry, communion practices and charismatic issues."
According to LCMS news, LCMS representatives included Kieschnick, Rev. William Diekelman, first vice president; Dr. Raymond Hartwig, secretary; Dr. Charles Arand, chairman of the systematics department at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and Dr. Samuel Nafzger, CTCR executive director.
AALC representatives included Aadland, Rev. Darell Deuel, chairman of the Commission on Doctrine and Church Relations; Rev. Frank Hays, interim seminary president; and Rev. Harold Johnson, secretary.