What separates the LCCF from other Lutheran Church Bodies?
Lutheran church bodies have traditionally been classified as being somewhere on a scale from liberal to conservative. While such labels leave much to be desired and can lead to misunderstandings, they can also serve to illustrate where a church body stands in its relationship to the Bible. Thus such labels can help an inquiring Lutheran Christian determine where he/she would be most at home.
"Liberal" might be defined as having a certain "freedom" with the Bible. Liberal Lutherans feel free to take or leave various parts of the Bible, or take some parts as truth and other parts as myth or legend. This is a result of a belief that the Bible is not necessarily the Word of God in all its parts. Thus a liberal church body might hold or tolerate a number of beliefs and teachings which we consider contrary to the Bible: the theory of evolution, the denial of miracles, the denial of the virgin birth of Jesus and His bodily resurrection, to mention a few. Taking liberties with the Bible in this way is not something that Jesus was permitting when He said, "The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
"Conservative", on the other hand, might be defined as sticking to the Bible, word for word. This is a result of a belief that the Bible is God's Word in all its parts, without error or contradiction (verbal inspiration).
Among modern-day Lutheran churches, we regard the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and, to a lesser extent, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) as liberal. While there are certainly people within these church bodies who have a correct view of the Bible, there is no question that the church bodies tolerate various liberal teachings and teachers (who like to call themselves "moderates"), teachers who do not have the same high regard for the Bible.
That leaves the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC), and a number of other small Lutheran church bodies. While most of these could be termed conservative according to the above definition, yet in our view each of them has gone astray in one or more points of doctrine or practice.
Since the charter members of our Lutheran Conference of Confessional Fellowship (LCCF) were formerly members of the CLC, the same things that separate the CLC from the WELS and the ELS separate us from those church bodies. These things are related primarily to the doctrine of church fellowship and the separation from an erring church body. In the late 1950s, the WELS and the ELS began to defend a continuing fellowship with an erring church body (the LCMS) during the process of admonition, whereas the Word of God clearly directs us to avoid "those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned" (Romans 16:17).
The CLC correctly noted at the time that this passage contains not one word regarding admonition. Admonition will take place before, during, and after the avoiding, but it dare not be used as an excuse for not avoiding. The WELS and the ELS continue to hold to the position that "termination of church fellowship is called for when you have reached the conviction that admonition is of no further avail..." (from a WELS paper of 1958).
In the 1970s and early 1980s, the CLC studied the question of membership in religious fraternal benefit societies, specifically the Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL) and the Lutheran Brotherhood (LB), which involve their members in the support of the religious activities of all Lutheran church bodies. While the CLC came to the correct conclusion that it is contrary to God's Word to be a member of such an organization, they fell short in applying God's Word in that they advocated the continued communing of those who were being admonished but had not given up their membership in these organizations. In fact, they could not even use the terms "admonish" and "church discipline" in connection with those who retained their membership in the AAL or LB, preferring rather to speak of "encouraging" them.
We believe that one who has fallen into sin, even inadvertently, should be gently instructed and admonished, as Paul directs: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted." Galations 6:1.
But we also believe that we cannot in good conscience pronounce absolution in Communion to someone who has not given up a specific sin for which he has been admonished. We base this practice on such passages as Luke 17:3, "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him," and Matthew 3:8, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." Thus we members of the LCCF had no choice but to separate ourselves from the false practice of the CLC and to continue to base our teachings and practices on God's Word alone.
We continue to regard the Bible as the only source and norm of Christian doctrine and life and the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord as a correct representation of Bible doctrine.
Publication of this text was authorized by the Lutheran Conference of Confessional Fellowship at its annual meeting held June 20, 1992