Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | May 15, 2011

The Emmaus Conference

Recently, the president of the Wisconsin Synod, Pr. Mark Schroeder, delivered a lecture entitled Walking Together with Jesus: Church Fellowship and its implications for Confessional Lutherans.  Reacting to the paper were Pr. John Moldstad, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and Pr. Matthew Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Pres. Schroeder delivered the lecture at something called a “free conference” held in Washington state.  This conference, the Emmaus Conference, serves this purpose:

The purpose of The Emmaus Conference is to provide an opportunity for Christians and interested others in the Pacific Northwest to gather together for learning and discussion. The Conference is dedicated to declaring the truths of God’s Holy Word as they are explained in the Book of Concord of 1580 and will make every effort to conform to that explanation because it agrees with Holy Scripture. As a result, The Emmaus Conference seeks to carry on the spirit of the Lutheran free conferences of the previous two centuries as a way by which the truth of God’s Law and Gospel might be proclaimed for the glory of God and the good of all (“Guidelines,” Emmaus Conference website).

Furthermore, they write:

As this is a “Lutheran” free conference, each of the speakers and reactors will be chosen from among those pastors, professors and teachers who subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions because (quia) they are in agreement with the Holy Scriptures. This will allow a common foundation for the presentations and reactions which will make the ensuing discussion fruitful and truly a righteous endeavor. Therefore the promotion of false doctrine and non-Christian ideas and practices by the presenters will not be allowed.

The purpose of this conference is not to air or resolve all the differences that exist between individuals and synods. Rather it is for an open discussion based upon the Holy Word of God as it has been confessed by the historic Lutheran Church to assist all participants to grow in their theological aptitude, clarity of thought and modes of expression (“Guildelines,” Emmaus Conference website).

Free conferences have been held among Lutherans in America almost since Lutherans came to America, especially since 1850 and the great immigration waves that brought many Lutherans to America.  What is significant about this free conference is that it found the presidents of these three Synods, once formerly sharing a fellowship (in the Synodical Conference, 1872-1961) into a discussion over doctrinal issues for the first time in about 50 years.

While there are still doctrinal issues that divide the Wisconsin Synod and the ELS from the Missouri Synod, we pray that the Spirit will work through His Word to lead us all to a faithful confession of His Word, and perhaps a renewal of the fellowship we shared at one time in the past.  At the very least, perhaps this is the beginning of a new round of free conferences, not just in Washington, but around the country.

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