Unity for a Purpose
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
On April 26, 1847 delegates from fourteen congregations met together in Chicago to form a fellowship of Lutheran congregations. St. Paul in New Melle and Trinity in St. Louis were among those charter congregations of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other States. A constitution was drafted and adopted. Though there have been many additions to the constitution and bylaws over the last 175 years, the objectives of the Synod, as found in Article III are a good reminder of why the Synod was originally formed and why we continue to walk together as congregations today.
The first objective states, “The Synod, under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, shall— Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor. 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy.” The first Scripture reference from Ephesians 4 highlights the goal “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) and to strive “that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10) Our congregations therefore seek to maintain the God-given unity in Christ and, by the Spirit’s guidance, avoid divisions among us our fellowship.
This objective also cautions the Church to be on guard against those who “cause divisions and created obstacles contrary to the doctrine you have been taught.” (Rom 16:17) The Synod therefore provides a defense against divisions that would arise through heresy and false doctrine. Thus, our life together as the Synod maintains an evangelical approach that strives for unity, while defending from false teaching. This objective is put into practice in everything from circuit winkels and congregational visitation to providing worship and teaching materials from our Synod publishing arm, Concordia Publishing House. Like the objectives that follow in the Constitution, this is not easy for 2,000 congregations composed of sinners. However, our prayer is that our Synod would be marked by a faithful, evangelical approach that promotes unity of the true faith while providing a defense against false teaching and divisions.
For the next few editions of Encourage, I will be focusing on these objectives and their basis in Scripture to remind us all of our unity in the faith, love for one another, common work, and the mission in which we share. I pray that these reminders will be helpful for our life together.
Prayer – O Christ, our defender protect us from all whose plans would subvert Your truth through heresy and schism that, as You are acknowledged in heaven and on earth as one and the same Lord, so Your people, gathered from all nations, may serve You in unity of faith; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan