So what does that mean for projects? I have a new one. It’s a small one (relatively speaking). I am planning on putting together what I think will be my final paper on the fellowship trilogy.
In seminary, nothing was quite so dull for me as discussions of fellowship. It was always a review of CTCR documents, in the context of “who can’t commune.” After Yankee Stadium, I took a dive into the writings of the fathers. It was like comparing apples and tripe. Scripture and our confessions don’t talk about fellowship in terms of who can and can not commune. They discuss fellowship in terms of oneness with Christ. The fathers speak in these terms as well. What a wonderful new world of joy and excitement for a young pastor who is struggling with error in our synod.
The result of those studies (in conjunction with other pastors) was “That They May Be One”, a document that ended up being far better and more influential than the unqualified pastor who worked on it deserved. That’s largely because of the efforts of others who were also on the committee, who made sure my meager efforts offered a worthy voice in our church’s conversation. When it came under immediate attack, I was asked to defend it at the Saint Louis seminary symposium. Working on that paper was an introduction of sorts for me – looking back on it now, I see many ideas developing that would later guide my understanding of the church.
Four years later, newly arrived in the Wyoming District, I was asked to speak to the issue of fellowship directly. I assumed that paper, “Fellowship Considerations in an Erring Church” would be the end of the discussion. The TL/DR version is: Yes, there are errorists in the church. But even CFW Walther admitted that Luther’s method was correct: teach the truth until they remove you.
A decade later, as the conversation in the church returned to the topic, I was again asked to deliver a paper for the pastor’s conference. This time, I addressed a more practical question: How do we faithfully and lovingly deal with errorists when they demand to be treated as faithful teachers? So, back into scripture, the confessions, and the church fathers I went.
And yet, those papers, as valuable as they have been to me, only hint at our path going forward. I plan a return once more to the Word of God as I attempt to write part 3 of “Fellowship Considerations in an Erring Church.” This has not been requested by an official group in our synod. But some pastors have asked that I continue my work, and I have a few moments right now to at least develop an outline. When and if the paper will be finished, I do not know. Nor do I know in what forum I will deliver it. But, at the very least, it will help me as I struggle with these issues. As always, I do not know for sure what conclusions I will reach. I am often astonished at where I end up on these journeys.
But that is my next project. Part 4 of the trilogy. I assume it will be the final part. But then, I always do. And the study of the Word of God continues.