Some Lutherans on CAF use the word, “Confessional” to describe themselves rather than to distinguish each other. All Lutherans adhere to the Augsburg Confession, the foundation of the evangelical Catholic faith, but how they approach these confessions can be different.
Here’s an explanation on how “confessional” Lutherans uphold the Augsburg Confession/ Book of Concord; the emphasis is that the Confessions do not contradict Scriptures. Other Lutherans differentiate that the Confessions, “insofar as” they don’t contradict Scripture are the norm of the Lutheran faith.
Lutheran church bodies and Lutheran individuals that identify themselves as confessional hold to a “quia” (Latin for “because”) rather than a “quatenus” (Latin for “insofar as”) subscription to the Book of Concord. Quia subscription (the Book of Concord is adhered to because it is faithful to the Scriptures) implies that the subscriber believes that there is no contradiction between the Book of Concord and the Scriptures. Quatenus subscription (the Book of Concord is adhered to insofar as it is faithful to the Scriptures) implies that the subscriber leaves room for the possibility that there might be a contradiction of the Scriptures in the Book of Concord in which case the subscriber would hold to the Scriptures against the Book of Concord. Some Confessional Lutherans maintain that this distinguishes them from other (“mainline”) Lutheran bodies and Lutherans, who, they believe, hold to a quatenus subscription.
This may be a simplistic definition but it helps me understand some of the very evident differences among Lutherans. It also explains why “Confessional” Lutherans, are, for the most part, disengaged from other Christians. And why these Lutheran bodies view ecumenical work as a non-priority.
With the exception of the LCMS, the other so-called 'Confessional" Lutherans did not participate in the 50 years of dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church and Missouri Synod did not sign the Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and are not represented in the Commission on Unity between Lutherans and the Holy See… Whereas the ELCA and Lutheran World Federation, comprising around 90% of all Lutherans worldwide, follow the lead of the Catholic Church concerning episcopacy/ apostolic succession.
‘Confessional’ does not, necessarily mean Catholic. More ‘low church’ in worship, congregational identification and opposed to closer ties with the Roman Catholic Church seem to characterize some north American Lutherans outside the LWF.