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we must steadfastly maintain the distinction between unnecessary, useless quarrels and disputes that are necessary.
Welcome to the Home Page of the Concordia Society! The Concordia Society is an informal association of Confessional Lutherans who seek to work together, and with other Lutherans, toward the goal of Lutheran unity. MEMBERSHIP is open to all Lutherans (lay and clergy) who agree with the Societys CONVICTIONS AND PRINCIPLES.
We invite you to visit the ESSAYS AND PAPERS section of this web site, and to contact us if you have any comments or questions. Our Email address is:
The Governors of the Concordia Society,
The Rev. Charles L. Cortright (WELS)
The Rev. David Jay Webber (ELS)
The Rev. William Weedon (LCMS)
The Rev. Paul R. Williams (LCC)
The Festival of the Reformation,
October 31, 2003
OTHER MEMBERS (as of June 12, 2006): Floyd Bass III, Charles M. Brooks, Michael Bryant, Michael Gehlhausen, the Rev. Erik Gernander, Daniel Gorman, the Rev. Mark A. Hampel, the Rev. Vyacheslav V. Horpynchuk, the Rev. David M. Juhl, Jesse R. Kloos, the Rev. John C. Lawrenz, the Rev. Robert A. Lawson Jr., Dale J. Nelson, the Rev. Clarence R. Priebbenow, Dennis Rardin, the Rev. Sean L. Rippy, Duane Smalley, the Rev. Rob Taylor, Jonathan Townsend, Kyle Wright, Jeff Wyman, the Rev. Peter Ziebell.
Convictions and Principles
The members of the Concordia Society believe that one of the most grievous situations in the Christian Church of our time is the theological and ecclesial disunity that exists among those who unreservedly identify themselves as Confessional Lutherans. Each member of the Society accepts the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments as the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God, and as the only infallible rule and norm in all matters of doctrine, faith, and life. Each member of the Society also accepts the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, as a correct presentation and exposition of the pure doctrine of the Word of God. With Gods help we are committed to working with each other and with other Lutherans, through careful study and patient dialogue, toward the goal of the theological and ecclesial reconciliation of all those Lutherans in the world who share these convictions regarding the authority and truthfulness of the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.
As Confessional Lutherans,
we have no intention of giving up anything of the eternal, unchangeable truth of God (which we also do not have the power to do) for the sake of temporal peace, tranquillity, and outward unity. Such peace and unity, which is intended to contradict the truth and suppress it, would not last. It makes even less sense to whitewash and cover up falsifications of pure teaching and publicly condemned errors. Rather we have a deep yearning and desire for true unity and on our part have set our hearts and desires on promoting this kind of unity to our utmost ability. This unity keeps Gods honor intact, does not abandon the divine truth of the holy gospel, and concedes nothing to the slightest error. Instead, it leads poor sinners to true, proper repentance, raises them up through faith, strengthens them in new obedience, and thus justifies and saves them eternally, solely though the merit of Christ. (Formula of Concord, SD XI:95-96, Kolb/Wengert pp. 655-56)
Also as Confessional Lutherans,
we have come to fundamental, clear agreement that we must steadfastly maintain the distinction between unnecessary, useless quarrels and disputes that are necessary. The former should not be permitted to confuse the church since they tear down rather than edify. The latter, when they occur, concern the articles of faith or the chief parts of Christian teaching; to preserve the truth, false teaching, which is contrary to these articles, must be repudiated. (Formula of Concord, SD R&N: 15, Kolb/Wengert p. 530)
In our efforts to identify and overcome the past and present misunderstandings, weaknesses, inconsistencies, and mistakes that have contributed toward the current disunity of the Lutheran Church, we will be governed by the principles that are articulated in the following statements:
1) We believe that The Symbols of the orthodox Church of Christ are the matured fruits of the deepest devotion, experience and learning of its greatest and wisest members in its most trying ages; and as we may practically learn much from the biographies of the good, so we may learn much more from the Spirit-moved biography of the Church and the principles and testimonies which mark her life of faith. They are the sign-posts set up by the faithful along the Kings highway of salvation to designate the places of danger to those who come after them, to warn and admonish us where we would otherwise be liable to err and miss the goal of our high calling in Christ Jesus. They are not laws to rule our faith, for the Word of God alone is such a Rule; but they are helps and tokens to enable us the more surely to find the true import of the Rule, that we may be all the more thoroughly and sincerely conformed to that Rule. They are the human tracks which the best of the saints have left, by which we may the better detect the way which God has laid out and opened for the fallen and sinful children of men to travel, that they may fill their Christian vocation and come to everlasting life. (Joseph A. Seiss, Our Confessions in English, Lutheran Church Review, Vol. I, Whole No. 3 [July 1882], p. 216)
2) We recognize that, Over against the unity of Rome under a universal Head, the unity of High-Churchism under the rule of Bishops, the unities which turn upon like rites or usages as in themselves necessary, or which build up the mere subtleties of human speculation into articles of faith, over against these the Lutheran Church was the first to stand forth, declaring that the unity of the Church turns upon nothing that is of man. Where the one pure gospel of Christ is preached, where the one foundation of doctrine is laid, where the one faith is confessed, and the alone saving Sacraments administered aright, there is the one Church; this is her unity. As the Augsburg Confession declares: The Church, properly so called, hath her notes and marks, to wit: the pure and sound doctrine of the gospel, and the right use of the Sacraments. And, for the true unity of the Church, it is sufficient to agree upon the doctrine of the gospel, and the administration of the Sacraments. Our fathers clearly saw and sharply drew the distinction between Gods foundation and mans superstructure, between the essential and the accidental, between faith and opinion, between religion and speculative theology, and, with all these distinctions before them, declared, that consent in the doctrine of the gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments is the only basis of the unity of the Church. This basis the Lutheran Church has defined, and rests on it, to abide there, we trust, by Gods grace, to the end of time. (Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology [Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1871], p. 182 [emphases in original])
3) We realize that in the moment we set up a doctrine which the Scripture does not actually proclaim we have crossed the dividing line between theology and philosophy, and have left the sola Scriptura (the Scripture alone). That is the danger which all Bible-believing and confessionally faithful theology must again and again guard against. And for that reason we must always again and again inspect the trains of thought of also such theologians of whose orthodoxy we have no doubt. ... We all suffer from the fact that we cannot devote more time to this important task. For success depends after all on this, that we on all sides think these problems through anew and not just repeat the old formulae and slogans. ... We must all try to read the statements of the Scripture, on which we must make our decisions, afresh, and not always only in the pattern of our theological traditions. It is naturally easiest and the most comfortable thing to do: to stay with what we have always said and wait until the other party says the same thing. But that can be the correct method only if we actually are championing only Gods Word and not, in addition, our own theological traditions opinion. (Hermann Sasse, Letter to Frederick Noack [1 Nov. 1951], in Scripture and the Church: Selected Essays of Hermann Sasse [Saint Louis: Concordia Seminary, 1995], pp. 172-73)
4) We acknowledge that Those are in fundamental agreement who, without any reservation, submit to the Word of God. When the Word of God has spoken in any matter, that matter is settled. There may be things that some men have not yet found in their study of the Bible; there may be matters with reference to which they have accustomed themselves to an inadequate mode of expression; yet, no matter what their deficiency may be, they are determined to accept the Bible doctrine. Where such is the case, there is fundamental agreement. ... A fundamental agreement is all the church can ever hope to attain here on earth. We are not all equally gifted; one has a much clearer and a much more comprehensive insight into Gods doctrines than another. We all strive to grow daily in understanding. Besides, when once we have accustomed ourselves to a faulty or an inadequate expression, it is not only difficult to unlearn the particular phrase and to acquire a proper one, but the inadequate term may tend also to warp our views on other points. Yet, in spite of all such differences, where there is an unconditional willingness to hear what God has to say in his Word, there is fundamental agreement. (John P. Meyer, Unionism, Essays on Church Fellowship [Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1996], pp. 63-64)
All Lutherans who agree with the convictions and principles of the Concordia Society are welcome to join, and to participate in the Societys activities. The Society maintains an Internet web site, on which members may post essays and short papers, responses to the essays and papers that have been posted by others, and additional materials that contribute toward the Societys purpose. Potential topics for essays and papers would include those areas of doctrine and practice in which Confessional Lutherans have not yet reached a consensus in their understanding, such as church and ministry, church fellowship, the consecration and the sacramental action in the Lords Supper, and the roles of men and women in the church. Potential topics may also include those influences that have contributed toward the disintegration of the unity of the Lutheran Church in recent generations, such as cultural accommodation, historical criticism, American evangelicalism, pietism, romanticism, rationalism, the charismatic movement, the Church Growth movement, and feminism. In the future the activities of the Society may also include the hosting of conferences and seminars.
The Society is an informal association of individuals and not of official representatives of congregations or church bodies. The Society is not a church, and it does not sponsor or conduct worship services or other churchly activities of this nature. The Concordia Society has a very narrowly-defined purpose and function: encouraging and facilitating study and dialogue among people who profess to be Confessional Lutherans. In many ways the Society seeks to emulate the model of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Conferences that were held in the United States between 1856 and 1859. Those who participated in these conferences belonged to various synodical bodies, but they shared a commitment to the authority and truthfulness of the Scriptures and the Confessions, and they also shared a desire for a genuine and God-pleasing unity among all the Confessional Lutherans in America. The Concordia Society differs from these conferences in the format of its deliberations (which is largely electronic, by means of the Internet) and in the scope of its interest (which includes Confessional Lutherans throughout the world, and not only in one country or region).
The conciliatory letters that Martin Luther wrote after the adoption of the Wittenberg Concord in 1536 reflect an attitude that the members of the Society consider to be most fitting for the kind of cordial dialogues in which we desire to participate: God grant us increasing grace that we may harmonize more and more in a true, pure unity, in a sure accordant doctrine and view...that to this end we forgive one another, and N. B., bear with one another as God the Father forgives us and bears with us in Christ. We must forget the strifes and smarts of the past, and strive for unity with patience, meekness, kindly colloquies, but most of all with heartfelt prayer to God, the Father, the Father of all concord and love. Certainly, if strife and clamor could accomplish anything, we have had enough of them. God is my witness that nothing shall be wanting on my part to promote concord. This discord has never benefitted me or others, but has done great mischief. No good ever was, or ever is to be hoped from it. ...where we in this point have not come fully to an understanding, the best thing for the present is that we be friendly to each other, that we put the best construction on each others acts, till the mire that has been stirred up settles. On our side, and I speak especially for my own person, we will, from the heart, dismiss all unkindness and regard you with confidence and love. When we have done all in our power, we still need Gods great help and counsel. There shall be nothing lacking on my part, whether of act or of suffering, which can contribute to a genuine, thorough, steadfast unity, for what are the results of the dissensions of the Churches, experience, alas! has taught us. (Letters to the Burgomaster of Basel, to representatives of the Swiss Church, and to the Council at Strasburg; quoted in Krauth, pp. 139-40)
Joining the Society
For those Lutherans (lay and clergy) who agree with the convictions and principles of the Concordia Society, joining is easy. Simply inform us that you agree with our convictions and principles and that you wish to become a member. If you would like to join, or if you would like to know more about the Society, please feel free to contact us by Email:
Essays and Papers
1. All members of the Concordia Society are invited to submit materials for this web site that contribute toward the Societys purpose, subject to the approval of the Governors of the Society.
2. A request to be admitted as a member of the Concordia Society, which must be accompanied by a statement of agreement with the Societys convictions and principles, may be included as a part of someones initial submission of material for posting on this web site.
3. Members may submit material that has been written by someone else, with the permission of the writer. Members may also submit links to material that is on other public web sites, whether written by themselves or by others.
4. It is assumed that a response to an essay or short paper that is submitted to the Society is intended for inclusion on this web site, unless the submitter explicitly states otherwise.
5. It is expected that an essay, short paper, or response that is submitted for inclusion on this web site will be written in such a way as to make a substantive contribution to a discussion of the topic that it is addressing. Thoughtful questions or requests for clarification on a certain subject or subjects, addressed to the author of an essay or to the other members of the Society in general, are also welcome. A brief statement of agreement or disagreement with what others have written that does not also include a reasoned discussion of the subject at hand will not be posted.
6. Anonymous and pseudonymous submissions will not be posted.
Materials may be submitted to the Society by Email:
Church and Ministry:
One Ministry in Two Senses by David Jay Webber (submitted by the author) [off-site link]
Walther on the Office of the Holy Ministry by Paul R. Williams (submitted by the author)
Sermon at the Installation of Two College Professors by C. F. W. Walther (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Some Quotations Pertaining to the Church and Its Marks, etc. (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Fellowship in Its Necessary Context of the Doctrine of the Church by the Overseas Committee (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Some Quotations Pertaining to the Subject of Prayer Fellowship (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Are the Lutheran Confessions a Practical Document Today? by David Jay Webber (submitted by the author) [off-site link]
Bad Bottles: Divisions in Confessionalism by Duane Smalley (submitted by the author)
Worship, Confession, and Adiaphora:
FC X and the Confession of the Gospel by William Weedon (submitted by the author)
In Defense of Historical Worship by Sean L. Rippy (submitted by the author)
Why Is the Lutheran Church a Liturgical Church? by David Jay Webber (submitted by the author) [off-site link]
Word and Sacraments: Outward Acts, Covenants, or Means of Grace? by Daniel Gorman (submitted by the author)
The Lords Supper:
Some Quotations Pertaining to the Consecration and the Sacramental Union (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Men and Women in the Church:
Martin Luther on Gender and the Ministry (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Theses on Woman Suffrage in the Church by Douglas Judisch (submitted by David Jay Webber) [off-site link]
Lutheran Theology Web Site
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