Nearly all the congregations of LCMC are former ELCA congregations, reflecting a process of defection that began nearly a decade ago in response to the ELCA full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church and accelerated in the last year following the pro-gay resolutions of the ELCA churchwide assembly (CWA09).  As a splinter organization of the ELCA, it follows that much of who they are and what they say and do reflects their negativity toward the ELCA. 

left rightThis blog has frequently countered LCMC’s criticism of the ELCA.  As a generalization, our critique of LCMC has been from the left and thus a recent Missouri Synod (LCMS) blog post that criticizes the LCMC from the right offers a radically different perspective but illuminating nevertheless.  

The brothers of John the Steadfast blog has become a strident conservative voice within the LCMS, and their August 17th post about the LCMC contains plenty of good data about LCMC history and policy, but it is their conservative critique that is fascinating.

Thus far, there seems to be much good in the LCMC for us to rejoice and be thankful for. But there are theological problems in such a denomination … including Women’s Ordination, an almost anti-clerical emphasis on the priesthood of believers, Biblical inerrancy and interpretation, and fellowship issues.

Most of the LCMC pastors, with their training and roots in the ELCA, are unwilling to turn their backs on their women colleagues and continue to affirm the ordination of women that began in the ELCA several decades ago.  For this, the Steadfast blog questions the traditionalist credentials of LCMC:

This is allowing for experience to rule over the Scriptures. So already, their formal principal of the Scriptures has been violated in the ordination of women.

John the Steadfast asks: Is women’s ordination not in clear contravention of scripture?  Should experience trump the Biblical witness?  By considering empirical evidence, does the LCMC risk sliding down a slippery slope?  The Steadfast ones lament that the LCMC vacillates between an inerrant view of scripture and the historical-critical interpretive model, willy-nilly choosing when to be literalists and when to be contextualists.  While the brothers criticize the LCMC for too little obeisance to inerrancy, our critique is that the LCMC countenances too much literalism.

The Steadfast folks also take the LCMC to task for their anti-clericalism.  It appears that LCMC is rather “low church”, both in their suspicion of denominational structures and in their liturgical practices, which probably reflects a “Haugean” strain that dates back to the Norwegian lay preacher Hans Hauge and his anti-clerical revivalist movement of two centuries ago.  The ELCA embraces both high church and low church worship styles, and I would not criticize LCMC on this account.  I think that ELCA congregations have greater local autonomy than the LCMC would acknowledge, but the loose association of congregations that comprise the LCMC is certainly a congregationalist model rather than the denominational polity of the ELCA or the LCMS, for that matter.  “A website and a mailing list” is an apt characterization of the LCMC.

The Steadfast blog points out another inconsistency in the LCMC regarding the importance of doctrine.  On the one hand, LCMC congregations have split from the ELCA due to doctrinal differences, yet seemingly exhibit a broad range of doctrinal influences within their own ranks.  It is ironic that the LCMC criticizes the ELCA for doctrinal laxity in failing to honor the Lutheran Confessions while utilizing seminaries that are essentially Baptist in outlook.  Here is the Steadfast impression of the LCMC doctrinal ambiguities.

The LCMC is much more elusive to pin down to a certain theology or practice due to its heavy congregational structure. A survey of the different districts of the LCMC reflects the wide array of beliefs and practices allowed in the LCMC … A final concern is that the LCMC allows for its clergy to be trained at a number of seminaries that even includes non-Lutheran ones … This represents another disconnect between the confession of the LCMC and their accepted practices.

While this blog and that of John the Steadfast make for strange bedfellows, we acknowledge their keen insight from the right which in many ways confirms our view from the left.