Once upon a time, there was a young pastor. He was a part of a Lutheran Confessions study group. When a controversy arose, one of the older and wiser pastors suggested that they weigh in on it. Perhaps they could have a good effect on the conversation.
With a reckless idealism that only youth can provide, this young pastor asked to help with the drafting of such a statement. And so he did. He was one of four on the committee, and one of twenty-eight to initially sign his name to it. To say it caused a sensation would be a gross understatement. It was lauded, reviled, became the topic of conferences, etc. Likely, no work of his in his entire career would have the same beneficially disruptive impact as this one document.
From time to time, as he grows older, he pulls it out and reviews it. “Do I still confess this?” he asks. “Or was I hopelessly naive, and in error?” Each time, the answer is the same. And each time he find something else that is helpful in those long ago words.
Today he reviewed it again:
2. We believe, teach, and confess that the Triune God gives church fellowship to His church for her good and for the good of the world. Christ prays to His Heavenly Father, “Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth…that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me” (John 17:17,21). It is only the Gospel of Christ that creates true church fellowship. Fellowship created solely on the basis of outward structures, without unity in faith given by God, is a human invention. To ignore differences in doctrine is to destroy the very unity of faith we seek.
We reject the teaching that differences in doctrine are trivial. We reject the teaching that differences in doctrine do not or need not destroy the outward unity of the church. Also rejected is the teaching that in the freedom of the Gospel we may ignore such differences.
5. We believe, teach, and confess that fellowship based on anything other than complete agreement in the Gospel and all its articles as taught in Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is fellowship with those who deny a part or all of God’s Word.
We reject the teaching that differences in doctrine are in some way a blessing from God, rather than the curse of Satan. Also rejected is the teaching that such differences of belief are God pleasing in any way.
Would that older-but-wiser pastor still be willing to stake his eternal salvation on those long ago youthful words? Absolutely. And he prays that he always will.