Monthly Archives: August 2011

Consequences for New Prague Pastor

Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) is around ten years old.  Like the WordAlone movement with whom it shares many members, it was born as a dissident voice within the ELCA, but as the years have passed, it has become a separate church body, and its relationship with the ELCA has become increasingly adversarial.  Since the ELCA adopted pro-LGBT policies at its national assembly in 2009, LCMC has openly encouraged ELCA congregations and members to split from the ELCA and join their organization.  The mission field of the LCMC would not appear to be the unchurched but rather a poaching of ELCA congregations.  LCMC regularly provides speakers to congregations in conflict to advocate for their organization and against the ELCA.  While many of their speakers may be fair-minded, there are also plenty of reports of heavy-handed behavior and misinformation.

As the relationship between the ELCA and LCMC deteriorated, ELCA secretary David Swartling, the principal person responsible for interpretation and enforcement of the ECLA constitution, issued a memorandum to Synod Bishops and Vice-Presidents on Jan 19, 2010 that stated clearly and explicitly:

“Dual Rostering” of ordained ministers and congregations is impermissible under the Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Thus, when the senior pastor and council of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, an ELCA congregation of nearby New Prague, Minnesota, persisted in their attempt to dual affiliate with LCMC, they were naïve at best and belligerent at worst.  The refusal of the council to allow the Synod Bishop to speak to interested persons at the church building prior to the scheduled vote regarding dual affiliation suggests more than innocent misunderstanding and is consistent with other reports of the heavy-handed tactics of LCMC supporters.

When the congregation voted down the resolution to dual affiliation offered by the senior pastor and council by a margin of 55% to 45%, it was effectively a vote of no confidence and a rebuke of the pastor and council, and now there appear to be consequences of failed leadership.  The senior pastor has penned an open letter to the congregation, published in the congregational newsletter that appears online.  The pastor writes (emphasis added):

A short time ago I visited with our Interim Bishop Glen Nycklemoe of the Minneapolis Area Synod. In the midst of our conversation, he presented me with several possible choices, including my resignation as your pastor.

However, rather than expressing contrition, the pastor attacks.

As I listened to his reasons, I was astounded at the level of misinformation that has made its way to his office … I am distraught over the lies that have been spoken.

I am more and more realizing that the church … has dramatically changed, and has more interest in protecting its hierarchical interests and structures than in seeking truth.

The pastor didn’t offer any details of the alleged lies and misinformation, nor any rebuttal to the fact that he and the council knowingly and willingly challenged their bishop and defied the constitution of the church body that nurtured him in his ministry and ordained him.  By standing with the LCMC against the ELCA, he chose poorly.

If he doesn’t recognize the offense in his actions, then he is indeed naïve.

ELCA statistics: two years after CWA09

At the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA (CWA09), a human sexuality social statement was adopted and ministry policies were revised to allow partnered gays to be “recognized and supported” and to serve as fully rostered clergy.  These actions caused some to issue doomsday predictions for the future of the ELCA.  Truth be told, some hoped for ELCA devastation and cheerleaded the prospect.  Lutheran CORE spawned a dissident denomination with pretensions to “realign North American Lutheranism.”  My blog tracking reports identify these Google searches just within the last month: “Collapse of ELCA”, “Downfall of ELCA”, “ELCA decline”, and more.

What is the reality?

To be sure, these past two years have been painful as congregations and members have departed the ELCA, and the process of separation has been conflicted and rhetoric harsh.  Coupled with the Great Recession, church revenues have decreased significantly, resulting in deep cuts in order to keep the Churchwide budget balanced.

David Swartling cwa11Yet, the upbeat and hopeful 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA11) struck harmonious chords–consonant and not dissonant.  ELCA Secretary David Swartling provided the numbers, according to the latest data available:

  • 95% of over ten thousand ELCA congregations remain
  • 94% of over four million ELCA members remain
  • There have been 832 first votes to leave (51 congregations voted multiple times)
  • 621 congregations have passed the first vote
  • 517 congregations have passed the second vote
  • The greatest number of defecting congregations are rural
  • The greatest number of defecting members are from large, urban congregations (megachurches)
  • Annual congregational benevolence exceeded $2 billion
  • Total congregational assets exceeded $22 billion, which is growing
  • In many communities where congregations have splintered, Synodically Authorized Worshiping Communities (SAWC) have sprung up

A constitutional amendment was passed during CWA11 pertaining to separation procedures.  A congregation with a failed first vote must have a cooling off period and may not vote again for six months.  Also, a congregation with a failed second vote must start the process over but not before the cooling off period of six months has passed.

And what of the actions of CWA09, were they revisited by CWA11?  Were there skirmishes on the floor?

Nary a whisper.

I know that Goodsoil, the LGBT advocacy group, came prepared to defend the actions of CWA09 if necessary, but nothing developed.  The recommendation of the Memorials committee to decline any reconsideration was adopted en bloc without comment.  No floor resolutions were offered.  The anti-bullying resolution passed without any speakers in opposition and with 97.5% in favor.  Clearly, this church body has moved on with a sense of hope and renewed mission, and the inclusiveness embodied in the actions of CWA09 is now part of our identity.

With Mark Twain, we may confidently state, the report of our death is exaggerated.

How Can This Be? ELCA Assembly Opening Sessions

Opening plenaryThe morning and early afternoon of the first day of CWA11 were dry and boring—a lot of “how-to” instructions on procedures as well as introduction of matters to come later.  But, with the afternoon worship, the Assembly began to soar.  Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s sermon was interrupted by “amens” and applause as he offered powerful words of hope and encouragement based upon the Lucan gospel theme of Mary’s annunciation.

“How can this be?” asked Mary, shocked by the angel’s revelation, and this phrase became the bishop’s refrain as he challenged the Assembly to hear Mary’s song and to dare to follow the call of the Spirit to do mission in the 21st century.

So are we ready for the Holy Spirit to move us with Mary? I believe that, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we are being moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to sing Mary’s song of God’s disrupting, dislocating, relocating power.

Friends, you know and I know that religious leaders singing Mary’s song are not packing people into sports stadiums for so-called religious rallies. In a consumer-oriented, competitive, what-has-God-done-for-me-lately? religious marketplace, we are not going to hear much about God dismantling structures that marginalize and exclude people in poverty or those whose race or gender or citizenship or sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities or health make them unwanted, unnoticed.

But that is Mary’s song, and it is Mary’s song that the Holy Spirit will give you the courage and voice to sing. It is Mary’s song of God bringing the despised and the marginalized, the outcast and the downcast, the defeated and the denied, and even
the dead into a new place. The place where God is building the new creation—the new community in Christ.

When we have been disrupted by God’s grace, when we have been dislocated, when we have been knocked off balance by God’s word of judgment and left wondering, “How can this be?” the Holy Spirit moves us. The Holy Spirit relocates us into God’s
abundant mercy, into a community of faith that with Mary believes “Nothing will be impossible with God.”

Oh yes, this is who we are as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—a community freed in Christ to serve. So let this assembly unfold. Come, Holy Spirit. Come with your power, Holy Spirit. Move us as you moved Mary. Move us to sing, to live Mary’s song. Move us to faith. Move us to a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. Move us to respond with Mary, “Here am I—here we are. Let it be to me—let it be to us, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, according to your word.”

 

If the opening worship was the main act, there was also a sideshow.  The clownish Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, the same who protest at military funerals, attempted to picket our Assembly, but the host Convention Center refused to let them on the grounds.  Thus, their demonstration went unnoticed a mile away, and after an hour they departed.

Malaria CampaignAfter worship and after dinner, the Assembly returned for Plenary Session II Monday evening, and the main item on the agenda was the kickoff of the ELCA Malaria Campaign.  The presentations roused the voting members to the point that I half expected a motion from the floor to raise the appeal to a higher level than $15 million.  Despite the fact that malaria is both preventable and treatable, a child dies from malaria every 45 seconds.  Every 45 seconds!

Here are the opening paragraphs of the resolution adopted by a vote of 968-19.

To launch the ELCA Malaria Campaign under the auspices of ELCA World Hunger as a major fundraising effort of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, its synods and congregations, and its affiliated ministries, auxiliaries, and individual members, that will encompass the best efforts of this church to join companion churches in Africa and
ELCA full-communion partners to contain deaths related to malaria by 2015;

To join with domestic and global partners to address malaria as a disease intensified by poverty within the context of comprehensive and sustainable community development and in close cooperation and partnership with this church’s companion churches in Africa and The Lutheran World Federation;

To invite every congregation, synod, affiliated ministry, auxiliary, and individual member of this church to make a contribution toward the goal of $15 million over the next four years (2011–2015) while emphasizing that gifts to the ELCA Malaria Campaign are not intended to replace giving to ELCA World Hunger but demonstrate commitment above and beyond normal ELCA World Hunger giving;

Over $1.5 million was pledged before the Assembly opened, and another $150,000 or so was pledged during the assembly.

After the plenary, I fired up my laptop in the lobby (the only place wireless was available without an exorbitant fee), but I barely checked my email before I was swept up in an engaging conversation that lasted late into the night—thus setting a precedent that would continue for the duration.

Holy Trinity of New Prague followup

I previously mentioned Holy Trinity of New Prague at the end of my recent update on the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).  This church and city are near my home in Northfield, Minnesota, and I previously reported that this ELCA congregation was considering dual affiliation with LCMC despite clear messages from their ELCA Synod office that dual affiliation was unconstitutional.  What is more, after the Synod Bishop was invited by ELCA supporters to speak, the Bishop was “uninvited” by the church council, and the meeting had to be arranged at the local Knights of Columbus meeting hall rather than at the church building.  That much was previously discussed here.

The dual affiliation vote was scheduled for Sunday, August 14th, the same day that I traveled to Orlando for the start of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA11).  The Delta flight from Minneapolis was full, and at least half the passengers were Lutherans like me traveling to the Assembly.  While we awaited the prearranged shuttle to the convention center, I overheard a conversation about Holy Trinity, and I visited with Synod staff who had just learned that the vote to dual affiliate had failed 145 to 117.

Since then, I haven’t heard much from New Prague.  Presumably, both sides are evaluating the consequences of this rejection of the leadership of the pastor and the council.  What is the future of that pastor, who invested a heavy measure of his good will with the congregation, in a failed attempt to lead down a path the congregation chose not to follow?  Will the pastor attempt to salvage his congregational standing?  If so, how?  Having cast his lot with LCMC, how will the pastor continue as rostered ELCA clergy?  Even if the pastor is contrite, will the majority of the congregation have any confidence in and support for the pastor?

ELCA Church Wide Assembly ends

Opening sessionTwo years ago, I attended the ELCA 2009 Churchwide Assembly (CWA09) as a volunteer, and I had plenty of opportunity to submit reports to the blogosphere.  Many readers found this blog at that time and have continued as regular followers.

The 2011 biennial Churchwide Assembly (CWA11) convened in Orlando a week ago, Monday the 15th of August, and I was there as a voting member.  I fully intended to provide ongoing blog updates, but that proved to be impossible due to time and energy spent in plenary sessions, worship, morning discussions in the lobby while sipping Starbucks coffee, or late night gab sessions with friends old and new.

I met a few blog or social media contacts face-to-face: blogger Pastor Justin Johnson from New York, Augsburg Fortress CEO Beth Lewis, and Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber of Denver.  I rekindled friendships with the leaders of Lutherans Concerned/Goodsoil.  I enjoyed a couple of long discussions with my cousin Bill Gafkjen, who is finishing his first year as Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod; Bishop Bill was added to the St. Olaf Board of Regents during the Assembly, so we look forward to seeing Bill in Northfield from time to time.  John Nunes, President and CEO of Lutheran World Relief, offered a verbal book report to me and other conversation partners regarding my Wretched Man novel.  And so many more …

So, please excuse the tardy nature of my assembly reports, which I will post here this week.

SE Mn Synod delegationAt this time, I will offer this foreword.  On Thursday evening, Bishop Huck Usgaard gathered the voting members from the SE Mn Synod for a final prayer huggle.  Erica Staab asked each to offer a one-word summation.  Here are a few responses: awesome, overwhelming, fulfilling, gratifying, uplifting, powerful … 

One veteran suggested this was the most spirited and spirit-filled Churchwide Assembly since the very first one two-and-a-half decades ago.  Others offered these metaphors: a cleansing exhale after a long time holding our breath, all in the boat paddling in the same direction, eyes meeting in trust rather than averted in suspicion.

More to come …

Submissive wife?

At the Republican debate last night, Michelle Bachman was asked whether she was a submissive wife.  Perhaps the question itself was sexist, but prior Bachmann statements suggested that she accepted certain Biblical writings about women rather literally, and the question was asked against that background:

It is a philosophy that Michele Bachmann echoed to congregants of the Living Word Christian Center in 2006, when she stated that she pursued her degree in tax law only because her husband had told her to. “The Lord says: Be submissive, wives. You are to be submissive to your husbands,” she said.  [referring to Titus 2:5]

Last night, Bachman responded to the question by suggesting she “respected” her husband.   Equating “to submit” with “to respect” is more than a tiny stretch, but I’m sure her minions were satisfied with her Biblical exegesis.

Coincidentally, New Testament scholar Dom Crossan suggested a better way of dealing with Paul’s alleged sexism in a Huffpost blog article yesterday.  It is Crossan’s thesis that Paul was actually a flaming women’s libber that subsequent generations of the church needed to tone down.  The blog post was merely a snippet in a popular medium of a theme that Crossan, Marcus Borg, and many current Biblical scholars have promoted in more scholarly media.

The basic thesis is that Paul was essentially egalitarian—there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female—in his own writings but the pastoral Epistles (1st & 2nd Timothy and Titus) were written by others in order to correct Paul.  This is the central thesis of The First Paul, co-authored by Borg and Crossan and reviewed here.  This seems to me to be a more intellectually honest way to approach the sexism of Titus and the 1st Timothy passage below:

I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 1st Timothy 2:12

The woman is defacedAlthough his thesis is not new, Crossan adds a new argument; he uses a defaced, early fresco to further his point.  Crossan claims the defacement of the fresco demonstrates the shift away from the egalitarian early church to the patriarchal church of a later generation.

The historical Paul is being pulled — kicking and screaming — away from Christianity’s radical past and into Christianity’s Roman future. As with owner and slave so also with male and female, hierarchies rejected by Christian radicality — in, for example, Galatians 3:26-28 — are being retrofitted into Roman normalcy.

Submissive wife?

At the Republican debate last night, Michelle Bachman was asked whether she was a submissive wife.  Perhaps the question itself was sexist, but prior Bachmann statements suggested that she accepted certain Biblical writings about women rather literally, and the question was asked against that background:

It is a philosophy that Michele Bachmann echoed to congregants of the Living Word Christian Center in 2006, when she stated that she pursued her degree in tax law only because her husband had told her to. “The Lord says: Be submissive, wives. You are to be submissive to your husbands,” she said.  [referring to Titus 2:5]

Last night, Bachman responded to the question by suggesting she “respected” her husband.   Equating “to submit” with “to respect” is more than a tiny stretch, but I’m sure her minions were satisfied with her Biblical exegesis.  Read more …

ELCA Churchwide Assembly to consider anti-bullying resolution

Upsala mapI have two vivid bullying memories from my youth half a century ago.

I attended a small, mid-Minnesota K-12 public school, and the first memory is a positive one.  In early elementary school, the class always formed a line in the hallway before moving anywhere (being line leader was a great honor).  One day as the line was assembling, a high schooler who happened to be passing through the hall picked on one of my classmates—don’t remember who or why, but what I do remember was a senior, an athlete, upbraiding the one who did the taunting.  In effect, the hero said, “if you want to pick on someone, start with me,” and of course, that was the end of it.

The second memory is one that makes me cringe, because I was the bully ringleader.  In fourth grade, we had put together an exhibit of frontier days in Minnesota (it was the year of the Mn centennial) that included household items from the mid-nineteenth century.  The gist of our bullying one day was to tease a girl from a poor family by suggesting that they still used these implements of a bygone era.  Silly, yes.  Trivial, no or I wouldn’t still feel guilty about it fifty years later.

Bullying among our youth, especially towards those perceived to be gay, has received a lot of attention recently, especially here in Minnesota where one large school district experienced a handful of teen suicides in which prior bullying may have been a factor.

In prior posts, I have repeated the haunting question of retired presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Herb Chilstrom, “what will you say to your sons and daughters, sisters and brothers and others in your churches when they tell you they are homosexual?”, and I have posed the further question whether one’s church is part of the problem or part of the solution.  Clearly, the ELCA as a church body seeks to be part of the solution.

Of the sixty-five regional Synods of the ELCA, thirty-seven have passed a nearly identical anti-bullying resolution onto the Churchwide Assembly (CWA11) for consideration.  CWA11 opens on Monday, the 15th of August, and I’ll be there as a voting member.

Here is pertinent language from these memorials (the full text is here—click on memorials committee report):

WHEREAS … research indicates children with disabilities or special needs are at a higher risk of being bullied than others (Rigby, K., 2002, New Perspective on Bullying. London. Jessica Kingsley Publications); and it has concluded, “Bullying around issues of sexual orientation, non-conforming gender behaviors, and dress was the most common form of bullying, second only to issues of appearance (e.g., body size and disability)” …

WHEREAS, in the social statement Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009), this church declares, “Likewise, it [the ELCA] will attend to the particular needs of children and the families of those with actual or perceived differences in sexual orientation or gender identity because they are especially vulnerable to verbal, physical, emotional, spiritual,
psychological, and sexual abuse;” …

WHEREAS, the voice of the church addressing the intersection of race, economic status, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, psychological, and physical ability is a powerful witness …

Here then are the series of action items taken from the Alaska resolution simply because theirs is first alphabetically.

RESOLVED, that the Alaska Synod encourage new partnerships among our congregations, the synods, the churchwide organization, outdoor ministries, campus ministries, Lutheran School Associations, Lutherans Concerned/North America, Lutheran Social Services organizations, public schools, counseling centers, and other governmental organizations in order to support and offer preventative programs addressing bullying, harassment, and other related violence, especially with
higher risk populations; and be it further

RESOLVED, that these partnerships be encouraged to create or join with existing preventative programs which:

a. utilize positive, inclusive, empowering and developmentally appropriate materials,
b. raise participant’s awareness about the issue, c. focus on prevention,
d. seek to change bystander behavior into ally behavior, e. create partnerships between youth and adults; and be it further

RESOLVED, that these partnerships seek funding for these efforts from a combination of existing funds and new funding sources not otherwise accessible individually such as foundation grants, synod and other Lutheran organizational grants (e.g., Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, Wheat Ridge Ministries, Women of the ELCA), private and governmental funding sources; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Alaska Synod memorialize the 2011 Churchwide Assembly to encourage, support, and publicize new partnerships in ministry that emerge in this church addressing the prevention of bullying, harassment, and related forms of violence, especially with higher risk populations.

The Memorials Committee issued a favorable recommendation including the following language (emphasis added):

Thirty-seven synods have presented similar memorials on the topic of “preventing bullying, harassment, and related violence.” These memorials ask the Churchwide Assembly to take action to expand the ministries of this church that address the problems of bullying, harassment, and related violence. The majority of the memorials cite two social statements in support of this request: (1) Our Calling in Education (2007), which affirms that opposition to bullying and other forms of harassment are components of truly safe schools, conducive to effective teaching and learning; and, (2) Human Sexuality: Gift and Trust (2009), which notes that children with actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity differences and their families are frequent targets of abusive behavior. The citations from the two social statements of this church rightly identify concerns within these statements that this church
should aggressively address bullying and related forms of abuse
.

Lutherans Concerned North America sponsored and promoted these resolutions at the Synod level and will be advocating for them at CWA11.

Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) Update

Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) has been around for a decade or so.  For awhile, many of their loose association of congregations remained ELCA but such dual affiliation is no longer possible (see below).  In earlier posts, I suggested LCMC was merely a website and a mailing list and not much more.  Are they a denomination?  Hear their own explanation:

LCMC has referred to itself as “a post-denominational association of congregations,” as a way of acknowledging that its horizontal structure is different than the more vertical structure of many classic denominations.

But having said that, LCMC is recognized as a church body (denomination) by the IRS, by the ELCA, and by other denominations. LCMC does have structure that is defined in its Constitution and bylaws. LCMC has member congregations, association-wide meetings, a clergy List (roster), a retirement and health plan, and regional and otherwise configured Districts for congregational support. LCMC does endorse chaplains for the military and its pensions and health plans transfer. Seminary students have a candidacy process and clergy a certification process.

While we understand our association to be post-denominational, we are a denomination by most societal definitions.

While the LCMC organization has certainly developed in the last couple of years, it is still the case that they are intentionally congregationally based, and their national and regional structures are mere skeletons.  They still have a miniscule staff and the services they offer to clergy and congregation are extremely limited.  LCMC clergy tend to receive less in salary and benefits than their ELCA counterparts (see below), and their clergy standards are looser.  Some clergy who have been disciplined by the ELCA have found a safe haven in the LCMC. They have no seminaries but merely working arrangements with existing seminaries that actually have more of a Baptist bent than Lutheran.  A quick review of the pictures on their website suggests their informality … mostly open shirts without tie or clergy collars, and their worship style tends to be “low church”.

It is also their reputation that they have been extremely aggressive in courting ELCA congregations to switch, and their tactics have been questioned.  That continues.

Anecdotally, there is a situation right here right now that is illustrative.  Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in nearby New Prague, Minnesota, an ELCA congregation, has a vote scheduled this weekend to consider dual affiliation with LCMC.  I became aware of that when my blog lit up earlier this week with folks from that community searching Google for variations on the term “dual affiliation”.  A year ago, I wrote a blog post that questioned whether LCMC supporters were pushing dual affiliation as a non-constitutional measure to exit the ELCA.  That is, in congregations where the votes are not there to achieve a withdrawal from the ELCA, some LCMC folks promoted affiliating with the LCMC, a violation of the ELCA constitution, with the hope that their punishment would be a banishment from the ELCA.  They get out of the ELCA without meeting the requirements for doing so, and the ELCA is perceived as the bully … the best of all possible results.

Back to Holy Trinity in New Prague.

My sources tell me that there were two “informational” meetings recently with LCMC representatives present to make their case, but that ELCA representatives were not allowed.  In fact, the ELCA bishop or his representative is persona non grata on congregational property, and the Bishop’s meeting with ELCA supporters today will take place at the local Knights of Columbus meeting hall and not at the church building!  My sources also tell me that the instigator is the senior pastor, and that also fits a pattern.  More often than not, when a congregation has exited the ELCA, it is because their clergy led their flock over the cliff.  In an interesting twist, some suspect the senior pastor is pushing dual affiliation as a way to retain his own ELCA based salary and benefits but to allow the congregation to save money by hiring a lesser paid associate pastor from the LCMC roster.

I have a button from a United Methodist Conference that reads, “All means all”, which is meant to critique congregations that claim “all are welcome” but set preconditions.  In the case of Holy Trinity in New Prague, their claim, “Holy Trinity is a congregation of warm, welcoming people who are reaching out to new people with the love and grace of Jesus Christ” apparently doesn’t apply to their own Bishop.

In any case, the ELCA does not currently allow dual affiliations, and the scheduled vote is contrary to constitution. Some have whined, “but the ELCA used to have dual affiliations with some Missouri Synod congregations,” and that is true. So, why does the ELCA strictly interpret its constitution now regarding the LCMC? Let me answer with a question: why would the ELCA permit a dual affiliation with an organization that is in its origin and identity antagonistic toward the ELCA?

Lutheran CORE update

Once an advocacy group within the ELCA, Lutheran CORE cut ties to the ELCA immediately after the 2009 Churchwide Assembly and in 2010 formed its own denomination, The North American Lutheran Church (NALC).  That denomination meets this week in Ohio for their second annual convocation.

From their website and their recent newsletters, it is clear that CORE/NALC continues to self-define as opposition to the ELCA.  To the question Who are you? the answer would appear to be, we are not the ELCA, and ELCA bashing continues to be the coin of their realmA recent post on the CORE blog contains the entire letter of resignation from the ELCA by a pastor, who happens to be the blog moderator, and he graciously acknowledges that “many” of his former pastoral colleagues in the South Dakota Synod (not “most” and certainly not “all”) are “faithful Christians”.  A newsletter article written by NALC Bishop Paull Spring asks, “What is to prevent the North American Lutheran Church from reverting to what the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is?”

The brochure announcing the Convocation and the accompanying theological conference contains the following:

  • Yet, some Christians and churches act as though …
  • This conference will seek to reaffirm the strong teachings of classical Lutheran theology, rather than follow the more fashionable trends of various liberal and liberation theologies.
  • it is time for Lutherans to reverse the direction of current mission policy, which is backed by a faulty theology.

The conference will feature the usual suspects that are continuously recycled–Braaten, Benne, Nestingen–and also a special guest speaker … a leader of the schismatic Episcopal group (ACNA).

Recent issues of the NALC newsletter suggest the denomination now numbers 200 congregations and 100,000 members.  For comparison, the ELCA has roughly ten thousand congregations and 4 million members, the Missouri synod has 2.4 million members, and the Wisconsin Synod nearly 400,000 members.  The other dissident organization that has split from the ELCA, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) apparently has over 300,000 members.

The newsletters also note that CORE/NALC meets a couple of times a year with LCMC, “to consider how the two church bodies might better work together” but nothing substantial comes from these meetings other than “all those present were grateful for the chance to talk, listen and grow in their appreciation for each church body, better appreciating our similarities and differences. There was also a sense of hope for a developing partnership in mission and ministry.”  My prediction is that too much turf would have to be surrendered by one or the other organization to form a meaningful partnership.  As one LCMC pastor candidly acknowledged back in 2009 “LCMC and NALC will be splitting a small pie”.