On January 30 SELC Bishop-Elect Vsevolod Lytkin and LTS Alexei Streltsov met with LCMS President Gerald Kieschnick and Dr. Samuel Nafzger, Chairman of the CTCR and Advisor to President Kieschnick at the LCMS International Center (affectionately nicknamed "The Purple Palace") in suburban St. Louis, Missouri.
The purpose of the meeting was to continue contacts with the Office of the LCMS President which have been maintained informally since 1998. Three meetings were held with former President Alvin Barry, and this was now the third meeting with President Kieschnick. All present agreed to continue these contacts and, after Bishop Lytkin's consecration, possibly also engage in a formal dialogue on church fellowship.
Dr. Nafzger noted that it will be necessary to review the formal procedure in the Fellowship Agreement Protocol of the LCMS. The present system is cumbersome and is geared primarily toward the formulation of fellowship with large churches. He stated that he intends to introduce a distinction between a wider circle of LCMS "Sister Churches" and a closer, inner circle of "Partner Churches." According to this pattern, the SELC might become an LCMS "Sister Church", while the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ingria, which is already in official fellowship with the LCMS, would be designated a "Partner Church". Speaking informally after the meeting, Dr. Nafzger commented that at the present time practically nobody but he understands these distinctions, and on occasion even he gets them confused!
The representatives of the SELC remarked that they are ready to wait patiently until the officials of the LCMS have worked out their understanding of the terms of church fellowship and the processes of its implementation. For the moment these are issues for the LCMS to work out, and as soon as these matters are resolved, the dialogue on the prospects of church fellowship can continue.
The present situation does not hinder brotherly fellowship between members of the Siberian Church and confessional pastors and congregations of the LCMS, nor is it an obstacle to continuing close educational cooperation between the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.
No date was set for the next meeting, but the participants agreed to continue their close contacts. It is expected that the next meeting will be held later this year.