On Nov. 9-10 a Lutheran free conference will be held at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn. The conference will include four essays and reactions on distinctly Lutheran teachings presented by theologians from several different Lutheran church bodies, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the North American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and WELS.

“These are issues upon which anyone who calls themselves Lutheran should agree,” says Phil Hirsch, the WELS pastor at Hope, Manhattan, Kan., and co-coordinator of the conference.

Hirsch describes his view of a free conference as “a place where people who recognize that they are not in fellowship can get together and talk about the truth.” Why this conference now? “Because it seemed like it needed to happen,” Hirsch says. “The time just seemed to be right that we should do this.”

Several WELS theologians will be participating in the conference. Prof. Mark Braun from Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, will be reading an essay by noted church historian Mark Noll titled “Is there any genuine Lutheranism left in American Lutheranism?” In addition, Prof. John Brug from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, will speak on “Luther’s Doctrine of the Word: The Incarnate Word in the Written Word.” WELS President Mark Schroeder and Prof. Joel Fredrich from Martin Luther College will be reacting to one presentation each. There also will be time for informal discussion about the essays in the evening—an important component of the conference, Hirsch says.

Free conferences were more common in the past, especially following the split between WELS and the LCMS in 1961. Part of the synodical resolution on the split even encouraged these discussions, although there haven’t been many conferences like this recently.

“This is one small attempt to remind each other of how sweet the gospel is,” says Hirsch. “Our 21st-century American neighbors in this supposedly postmodern, post-Christian age need this message so badly.”

Find out more about this free conference at www.lutheranfreeconference.com