ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson said if closer relations between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod aren't possible on a national level, regional and local Lutheran bodies should explore ways to work together.
Anderson's remarks at the Oct. 19 American Lutheran Publicity Bureau dinner in White Plains, N.Y., included a challenge: "For the last years we have simply drifted farther apart, sniping at each other and putting the worst construction on each other's actions ... [it's time] to turn down the rhetoric."
Anderson pointed out that the LCMS questions the ELCA's right to the name "Lutheran" because of the ELCA's decision in August to enter into full communion with three Reformed churches.
"I believe we have much to offer the world as Lutherans," he said, "and the present standoff doesn't permit us to exercise that gift."
Martin Luther was "crushed by a system that thought it had all the answers," Anderson observed, adding that he can't recall the last time he heard someone talk about Lutheran unity having a future. "The question really is," he said, "is talk of Lutheran unity as pointless as discussing unity in the former Yugoslavia?"
The bishop's call for regional and local cooperation noted work already taking place in some areas of the country despite LCMS policies forbidding joint worship and pastoral exchanges.
"I still cherish the vision of a single Lutheran voice in this country, combining the gifts each of our traditions has to bring," Anderson concluded. "I don't think it will occur in my lifetime, but I'd like to set out on that path."
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