What Lutheran synods is WELS in fellowship with?
Questions Listed Under Fellowship
Click on a title or click open the "+" icon to reveal answers to each question.
There are 23 church bodies that we share doctrinal or confessional fellowship with. Please go to www.celc.info and click on "member churches" for a complete listing as well as some information on them. This is the site of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference.
Why do WELS Lutherans choose to worship publicly only with other WELS Lutherans? Why not, in the spirit of unity, join in public worship with other denominations like Catholics or other Protestant groups? It can seem that WELS members are being elitist, or that they think they’re better than everyone else.
Thank you for asking the question and giving us the opportunity to try to explain. Truthfully stated, we would like nothing more than to worship with any and all professing fellow Christians and to clearly express that "spirit of unity" you mention. To be able to do this would not only allow us (and the others) to affirm our unity in the Christian faith but also testify to the world how wonderful it is to be an active part of God's big family of believers.
But, obviously, there is more that has to be said. There are a lot of times we see people not doing what they would prefer to do. We see soldiers in battle not protecting their lives and personal safety by heading home. We see parents not going on cruises and not driving their dream cars while they struggle to get children through college. The point is that despite sincere desires that are real, there are often higher priorities involved, issues that keep us from simply doing what we wish we could do. And what would be the things that normally keep us from worshipping with other Christian denominations despite our wish that this could happen? Let me put it this way and then try to explain: Four kinds of love keep us from doing what we would otherwise do.
- There is love for the very people we feel we cannot worship with. We believe that the majority of denominations and churches you mention are mixing Bible truth with falsehood. If anyone is willing to sit down and talk with us, we'd be happy to explain what we mean and what statements of the Bible are involved. Anyway, these churches might be compared with a friend who makes and begins to eat a sandwich that has good, nourishing meat in it—but also doses of poison. God's Word nourishes, but false teachings poison the soul and weaken spiritual life. If we find that the other people are ignorant or unaware of the errors in their churches, we would never avoid or refuse to encourage them or possibly even worship with them on occasion. And we would use these times together to point out what we love about their confession of the Christian faith and also point out what we consider to be errors or falsehoods they should avoid. But if these people have consciously or knowingly joined a church that tolerates error, then we must assume they are doing this purposely and we want to give a strong, consistent testimony against the error, the poison, found in that church. Our motive is to help and protect, and this desire is stronger than the desire to ignore errors or pretend everything is okay and go to church with them.
- There is love for our Savior and Lord along with love for the truth of his Word. This is at the heart of what makes Christians who they are, of course. To confess the truth of our sinfulness and utter inability to save ourselves and to confess and rejoice in the truth of the saving work of Jesus Christ on our behalf lead us to hate all errors and falsehood. Love for truth and hatred of error always go together. Love for God and hatred of falsehood also go together. If, as said earlier, we are talking about people who knowingly and consciously tolerate religious error, we are called on to choose God and his truth over churches that bring errors and poisonous falsehood with them. Even when it hurts us emotionally or socially, or leads others to conclude we are "elitist" or think we are better than others. We are by no means better than others, but our God and his truth are. Our primary love for him and his truth override our desire to seek an external peace or superficial friendliness at the expense of truth. It's sort of like waking up a neighbor at two o'clock in the morning if we see his house is on fire. At first it appears to be rude and discourteous, even unloving. But when the danger is identified and clearly seen for what it is, then the action can be seen as loving and fitting. We hope people give us the chance to explain.
- There is love for our fellow Christians who may be watching what we do and may not understand or may be led to stumble spiritually if we appear to be disregarding God's truth or tolerating error. For example, if I find myself invited to a another church by a friend who I am convinced is ignorant of the errors and dangers there, and I may be willing to attend that church with him as part of a teaching and encouragement effort, I might be doing what is okay and for the right reasons. But other Christians could so easily get the wrong idea. They might somehow think that staying away from error or giving a clear testimony against falsehood is no longer important. They might be led into error by what appears to them as a bad example. Yes, I could explain, but I run the risk of doing damage before I have the chance to explain. In love, sometimes we refrain from doing things that are permissible because they are not wise or helpful to others.
- And there is love for our own souls and spiritual life. God repeatedly says spiritual error and doctrinal falsehood are deadly and dangerous. I do not want to be arrogant and think that I am strong enough or wise enough to withstand the temptations of exposing myself to false teaching. Rather I want to assume God's wisdom and advice are always best. And never, never in the Bible is permission given to flirt with danger or pretend falsehood is no big deal. I would not want to share my friend's sandwich that has the combination of good meat and poison by thinking that I am strong enough to safely tolerate the poison. Besides, doing that would also be unloving against the neighbor and fail to give him clear, loving warning.
Admittedly, love is a very powerful emotion. And love leads people to do things that appear distasteful or even unthinkable. I remember reading about a woman taking care of an aging parent who soiled his clothing and bed every day. The woman faithfully changed the clothing and bedding and washed the parent's body every day despite the smell and filth. A friend commented to her, "I wouldn't do that for a million dollars!" And the woman quickly and quietly answered, "Neither would I. But I'll do it for love." In a similar way, we would not "avoid" or "rebuke" or "warn" or "act so socially and politically incorrect" for a million dollars. But we'll do it for love—love for our neighbor's soul and spiritual health, love for God and his truth, love for other Christians who may be watching our example, and love for our own souls and spiritual well-being.
I hope this is at least a start to answering your question. More can and probably should be said. Give us the chance to say more and we'll be thankful for that opportunity.
I'm a junior in college and met my girlfriend during my freshman year. I grew up WELS and she grew up non-denominational, so we differ on several doctrinal points. Do you have any advice for having a 'church talk'? I'm not sure how to go about telling her that I cannot go to a church that I think is biblically wrong on baptism, the Lord's supper, etc.
Part of this depends on her personality, her degree of committment to her religion and so on, Is there someone you can talk to who knows both of you, like a WELS campus pastor? Has she gone to church with you? How much have you talked about faith in the two years you have known her? Does she understand how important your faith is to you? Is she an active committed member of her church? All of these are factors. If you naturally talk about your faith, it can lead to naturally talking about how a unity of faith is important to marriage.The most natural way to do this depends in part on the pattern of communication you have already established. Someone who can talk to you in person would have a better understanding of this.
- What we believe
- Spiritual Help
- How we serve
- Christian Aid & Relief
- Adult Discipleship
- Campus Ministry
- Christian Giving
- Congregational Counseling
- Lutheran Schools
- Military Services
- Ministerial Education
- Multi-Language Publications
- Special Ministries
- Women's Ministry
- Youth and Family Ministries
- Northwestern Publishing House
- WELS Administration
- News & Events
- Streams media
- About WELS