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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Worldwide -- Witness, Mercy, Life Together

Sign on Silesian Lutheran Headquarters

This post is much less about the Silesian Lutherans that I have written so much about lately, and more about the Synodical Emphasis of Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. One thing I have noticed in my travels to various churches throughout the world is that nearly every church focuses on three areas summarized by witness, mercy, and life together. Various churches do not necessarily call their work by these names, nonetheless, this is the work that they do. I was rather surprised (and pleased) when I saw that the Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession had an evangelism department, a diakonia department that is celebrating its 20th year, and a church fellowship department.

Evangelism (Witness) Area of Silesian Church
Witness Emphasis for LCMS

In John 1:19 - 20, the words for witness (martyria) and confess (homologein) are used interchangeably. For the past several years or so, it seems as if the Missouri Synod has been engaged in a struggle over "evangelism / witnessing" and "confessing / remaining confessionally faithful." St. John, the Evangelist, shows that "witness" and "confession" are synonyms and that they belong together. A person cannot witness the truth unless the confession is correct and orthodox. A person retain the orthodox confession without bearing witness to it. Witnessing and Confessing are two sides of the same coin. In ecclesiastical terminology, a "martyr" is a person who gave his or her life bearing witness to Jesus. A "confessor"is a person who did not lose his or her life but who stood before the authorities, kings, or governors and confessed the truth about Jesus at risk to life and limb. Therefore, Robert Barnes is a confessor and martyr, while Martin Luther is only a confessor. Ignatius of Antioch was a martyr, while Cyril of Alexandria was a confessor. Witnessing leads to confessing and confessing leads to witnessing.

Diakonia (Mercy) Area of Silesian Church

Mercy Emphasis for the LCMS

Church Fellowship (Life Together) Area for Silesian Church
Life Together Emphasis for LCMS
In the Missouri Synod, it seems that every new Synodical President brings a different emphasis, slogan, or program to the church. In some ways, this is inevitable and not entirely bad. The time in which a given President serves requires that Law and Gospel be divided for the church at that time and for him to focus on what he believes is most necessary at that moment. This is simply providing pastoral care to the Synod as a whole, not unlike what a new pastor does upon arriving in a congregation. President Harrison's office has strived to not call Witness, Mercy, Life Together a program or slogan, but rather an emphasis. Witness, Mercy, Life Together isn't really anything new. It is really just what the church does as she lives under the cross of Jesus. What these areas are called isn't ultimately important, simply that the church carries these out. The example from the Silesian church shows that Missouri Synod isn't alone in the task but the Christian church throughout the world engages in Witness, Mercy, and Life Together -- even if different church bodies and groups of Christians call it something different.

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