A History of the CLC and Differences Between CLC and Other Synods

The Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) considers itself 
to be the true spiritual descendant of the Evangelical Lutheran 
Synodical Conference, which was formed in 1872 and lasted until 
the early 1960s.  As that association of formerly conservative 
Lutheran church bodies in North America was drawing its last 
breath, the CLC was just becoming a church body.

The CLC emerged from three of the former member churches of the
Synodical Conference:  primarily from the Wisconsin Evangelical
Lutheran Synod (WELS), but also from the Lutheran Church-
Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS).
The Synodical Conference had originally been formed on the basis
of full agreement in doctrine and practice on the part of the
member churches; it broke apart when that basis and the biblical
doctrine of church fellowship on which it rested was no longer
fully practiced by the member churches.

Members of the CLC are eager to testify to the truths that had 
been held by the Synodical Conference in the days when it had
been faithful to the doctrines of Scripture and the Lutheran
Confessions, as found in the Book of Concord of 1580; thus the
name that was chosen:  Church of the Lutheran Confession.

This desire is also attested by the CLC's adopting the Brief
Statement of 1932 as one of the confessional writings cited
in its constitution.  Thus the CLC confesses:  "In our teaching
and preaching we rely wholly upon the Bible, the canonical 
Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.  We regard this Book
of Books as the Word of God, verbally inspired and wholly without
error as written by holy men of God.  We consider our mission to
be that of communicating the words and message of this Book to
those who will hear them; and we know of no other divine source of 
true doctrine and instruction in the way of salvation and in 
God-pleasing living."

Further:  "We therefore reject as sacrilegious and destructive 
every effort by which the intellect or science of man would
modify or set aside a single inspired word.  We deplore the wide-
spread apostasy...which reduces the Bible to the status of a human
document containing errors and myths."

In the above-mentioned doctrine of the Scriptures the CLC differs
widely from the most liberal branches of general Lutheranism, 
namely those Lutheran churches found in European nations and,
in the United States, that Lutheran church body identifying 
itself, since 1988, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA).  The ELCA is admittedly not agreed in doctrine among
the church bodies which formed it through merger.  Even its most
conservative wing would not accept the high view of the Scriptures
as verbally inspired and wholly without error, which is unashamedly
taught in the CLC.

As the ELCA is the most liberal of the Lutheran church bodies in 
the United States, so the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS)
may be regarded as the moderate, more middle-of-the-road, wing
of American Lutheranism.  It does not as yet go so far, for 
example, as the ELCA in permitting women to serve as parish
pastors (although a poll of LCMS pastors reported that more than
1,000 of them had no objection to women clergy), yet it has changed
its former position (as held by earlier leaders C.F.W. Walther and
F. Pieper) and now permits women to vote and hold office in the
church.  This is one illustration of the present-day attitude of
the LCMS toward the inviolability of Scripture.  The LCMS espouses
the notion that the words of St. Paul regarding women in the church
were culturally-affected and are no longer applicable in today's 
society.  The CLC, on the other hand, holds that St. Paul, writing 
words which were verbally inspired and inerrant, was expressing the 
eternal will of God.

Another illustration of this difference can be seen in the doctrine
of the Church, particularly in reference to church fellowship.
Because we of the CLC deplore any attempt to modify or set aside a
single inspired word of Scripture, we also wish to be obedient to
those words of God which instruct regarding the Church and the
practice of fellowship.  We firmly believe that the Church consists
of all who, by God's mercy and according to His own purpose and 
grace, were from eternity ordained unto eternal life, and that
the factor uniting the Church is "the one true faith."  Faith 
cannot be seen by human eyes, and therefore the very existence of 
the Church is an article of faith.  Since the word of God promises
it, we believe that where the gospel in word and sacrament is in
use there true believers are present.

In the exercise of fellowship in worship (praying together) and
joint church work, we cannot recognize our brethren by the faith in 
their hearts, which is not visible to us.  Instead, by the grace of
God and in accordance with His instruction, we are permitted to
exercise fellowship only with those who in their confession and
life bow to the rule of the divine word of God.  Because Christ
Himself urged:  "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I
have commanded you"; and because the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul
to write:  "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be
no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in
the same mind and in the same judgment" - we know in faith that it
is the divine will that Christians are to be perfectly united in 
doctrine and practice, and that they are not to be indifferent in
this matter (perhaps "agreeing to disagree agreeably") but are to
seek agreement on the basis of God's word.  Where there is such 
unity in doctrine and practice there is to be the practice of
fellowship in all its phases; where there is not such unity, God's
word in Romans 16:17 sets forth the God-pleasing refusal of the
practice of fellowship:  "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark (keep
on taking note of) them which cause divisions and offenses contrary
to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them."

The CLC, accordingly, upholds the following in the Brief Statement
of 1932:  "Since God ordained that His Word only, without
the admixture of human doctrine, be taught and believed in the
Christian Church (1 Pet. 4:11; John 8:31,32; 1 Tim. 6:3,4) all
Christians are required by God to discriminate between orthodox and
heterodox church-bodies, and, in case they have strayed into 
heterodox church-bodies, to leave them (Rom. 16:17).  We repudiate
unionism, that is, church-fellowship with adherents of false
doctrine, as disobedience to God's command, as causing divisions in
the Church (Rom. 16:17; 2 John 9,10), and as involving the constant
danger of losing the Word of God entirely (2 Tim. 2:17-21). ... The
orthodox character of a church is established not by its mere name
nor by its outward acceptance and subscription to, an orthodox
creed, but by the doctrine which is actually taught in its
pulpits, in its theological seminaries, and in its publications."

In place of the above, which was once held by the LCMS, that church
body now practices what they term "levels of fellowship," according
to which fellowship may be practiced among Christians of varying 
confessions under certain curcumstances:  such as open communion,
ecumenical services and the like.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) and the Evangelical
Lutheran Synod (ELS) are in fellowship with each other, though not
completely agreed on the involvement of admonition in the process
of terminating fellowship on their part with a church body which
has "become infected with error."  Both bodies, however, do maintain
that it is necessary to make the judgment ("come to the conviction")
that "admonition is of no further avail" before termination of
fellowship can take place.  The CLC, on the other hand, holds that
such a subjective judgment regarding the further results of 
admonition is not only impossible, because only God can read human 
hearts, but also unnecessary; for Rom. 16:17 says only that when it 
has been ascertained that an individual or a church body is causing 
divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine of Holy Scripture, 
the directive to avoid is as binding as any word addressed to us by 
our Savior God in Holy Scripture.  The apostle's premptory "avoid!"
is the voice of the Good Shepherd Himself, as He lovingly protects
His sheep and lambs from the deception of error and as He graciously
gives warning to the false teacher.  ... We reject any interpretation
of Rom. 16:17-18 which, in the name of Christian love, would make
the avoiding of causers of divisions and offenses contingent upon the
subjective judgment that admonition is of no further avail and that
an impasse has been reached.

It might be felt that the CLC exists merely to testify against 
the errors of others.  The truth is that the CLC is, in fact, for
something very precious, namely the full and complete revelation of 
God's word to the world of sinners, among whom we include ourselves.
Surely, then, the CLC is an evangelical church, in the full sense
of the term; our most important mission is to proclaim the gospel
of Jesus Christ, the good news that God has redeemed the whole world
and has declared it righteous through the death and bodily resurrection
of the God-Man, Jesus Christ; and that believers in Him will inherit
everlasting life in heaven.

As part of its mission, the CLC is deeply interested and involved in
Christian education.  Christian day schools, taught by professionally
trained teachers, are operated by more than one-fourth of its con-
gregations.  The CLC also educates young people for leadership as
dedicated lay members, Christian day-school teachers, or pastors, at
its Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  The college
has three departments:  high school, liberal arts college, and
theological seminary.  There are four-year programs leading to a 
bachelor's degree in elementary education or pre-theological studies,
and a two-year general studies program granting an associate degree.

Member congregations of the CLC are located in 23 states and Canada, 
and the church body presently supports missions in 18 U.S. cities.  
While not in fellowship with any other U.S. Lutheran body, the CLC has
fellowship with three overseas church bodies it is helping to
support in India and Nigeria.

The CLC has three official publications:  Ministry by Mail, Lutheran
Spokesman, and Journal of Theology.


Prof. John Lau
07/09/95