In the fall edition of LifeDate, I reviewed the pan-Lutheran history of Lutherans For Life (LFL), noting that the founders came from several Lutheran traditions. The intent from the beginning was for LFL to be pan-Lutheran. I also listed the Lutheran bodies that currently support LFL. Many of these have strong, life-affirming statements. (If you missed them, they can be found here.
In this article, I would like to look at LFL’s “official status” among the Lutheran bodies. All of the Lutheran bodies discussed in the last issue have in one way or another recognized LFL. This may have been through a convention resolution acknowledging LFL as a legitimate ministry and urging congregations and members to support us. Three Lutheran bodies have “officially” recognized LFL according to their individual guidelines for doing so.
Both Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) have recognized LFL as a “Ministry Partner.” This officially sanctions LFL as a ministry with which the LCMC and the NALC choose to partner in carrying out their respective missions. The official status with these bodies places no requirements or obligations upon LFL.
In the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), LFL is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO). This status does come with obligations. The majority of our national board must be members of LCMS congregations. We also must uphold the doctrinal integrity of the LCMS. That means we could not produce any materials or pass resolutions that would be contrary to an LCMS doctrinal position.
We can, however, work with other Lutheran bodies who may hold doctrinal positions that differ from the LCMS. Upholding the God-given value of human life is the common thread that ties together all of the Lutheran bodies we have mentioned. We can and should be working together, giving witness to the sanctity of life in our congregations and in our culture. Having non-LCMS members on our board or Speakers Bureau or writing articles on the life issues does not imply that LFL promotes the doctrinal differences that may exist. We should be thankful that we can present a united front on life issues.
Being an RSO in the LCMS brings with it many advantages. It means my position can be a called position. It allows our staff to participate in the LCMS health care and benefits packages. We have access to a wide variety of resources within the LCMS infrastructure. We can apply for grants that are only available to RSOs. For example, this past year we received a $25,000 grant under the LMCS Domestic Grant program.
Being pan-Lutheran has been, and will continue to be, a great blessing for LFL. The more Lutherans we have equipping others to be “Gospel-motivated voices For Life,” the more Gospel-motivated voices we will have! And that, after all, is our mission!