Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod

It seems the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod teaches and believes the same as we do in WELS. Yet, we are not in fellowship. In basic terms, what keeps us from fellowship with the LCMS?

The primary area of doctrinal difference between the LCMS and the WELS is the issue over which our synod suspended fellowship ties with the Missouri Synod in 1961: the doctrine of church fellowship. While the LCMS took a biblical stand in rescinding its fellowship with the American Lutheran Church, its published position still suggests that there are varying degrees of church fellowship and can be selective joint expressions of such fellowship despite obvious differences in doctrinal confession. In other words, while it would be wrong to ask the pastor of an erring church body to preach in an LCMS church or for an LCMS member to commune in an ALC or LCA church, certain other acts of worship or cooperative ministry among members of theologically disunited churches might be permissible. The LCMS is still wrestling with its membership in the Lutheran Council in the U.S.A.

Our synod has insisted, on the basis of such passages as Romans 16: 17, 1 Corinthians 1:10 and Matthew 28:20, that complete oneness in conviction and confession is a biblical prerequisite to any expression of such oneness in the life of the church. Our position recognizes the difference between those who err in weakness and welcome the correction of brothers and sisters in faith and those who defend tolerate and promulgate falsehood (Titus 3:10). Our position does not presume to judge hearts or, necessarily, deny another's Christianity. God asks us only to judge public profession of faith, what a church or its members claim to believe and teach--in practice or by virtue of fellowship/membership (I John 4:1; Matthew 12:37). To assume oneness where membership and conviction are openly disharmonious would be to presume to read hearts.

St. Paul warned "a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough" (Galatians 5:9). An inconsistent church fellowship principle allows error to coexist with truth unchallenged and therefore to erode truth. It nullifies consistent biblical witness, thus compromising confidence in the Bible and exposing Christians to falsehood.

It makes doctrinal discipline difficult, allowing those who teach error to continue their teaching. Apparent disunity within the LCMS on the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and consequent issues--despite clear and biblical statements by the church body--may be traceable to inconsistency in church fellowship and doctrinal discipline.