fellowship. Since becoming an orthodox Lutheran, I have seen two
opinions among them as to this matter. There are those who require
total agreement on all doctrines, which seems to correctly reflect
what I have read in Walther and Pieper. Others, like many today in
the LCMS, seem to tolerate some differences for the sake of “holding
the fort”. How do think Romans 16:17,18 speaks to this?
The best place to find answer your question would be to read over the “Rite of Confirmation” found in the hymnal (Lutheran Service Book page 272). Presumably, every communicant member of your congregation will have made a profession of faith according to this rite or one like it. It is hard to respond to concerns of “tolerating differences” without knowing specifically what “differences” are being spoken of. Some Lutherans may struggle with certain teachings, however they still have submitted themselves to the teachings of the Book of Concord even as they seek to grow in their understanding of certain teachings. This could be issues on women’s roles in the church, or where to “draw the line” on open/closed communion practices, etc . . . Other doctrines, such as the natures of Christ, His death and bodily resurrection, etc . . . are more critical and any tolerance of “differences” would need to be very narrow at best. Romans 16:17-18 is directly applicable to this issue. Anyone teaching that deviates from the doctrine given us by Christ is dangerous. This is why it is important that folks be properly instructed in the faith and that they not profess a faith to which they do not truly hold. Pastors are going to vary on these things at times, and certainly every pastor is capable of erring concerning who is received into communicant membership and who is not. But overall, every communicant member ought to have been properly instructed in the faith given through the Holy Scriptures as taught in the Lutheran Confessions (via Small Catechism), and be able to (in good conscience) profess the faith as laid out in the rite of confirmation.
Rev. Jeffrey Ries
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Tacoma, WA