Remember biology class in high school when we learned about the amoeba? These single celled, microscopic creatures would split and one would become two. It would seem that Lutheran CORE is also capable of binary fission, and it has just announced the spawning of a creature much like itself, but apparently separate, and they have crowned their progeny with the auspicious (audacious?) title of “The North American Lutheran Church” (one expects the emphasis to be placed on The, much like the pro football types who trumpet their alma mater). On February 18th (drum roll please), Lutheran CORE released its Vision and Plan for The North American Lutheran Church–NALC for short.
To use another biology metaphor, the ganglia of disaffected ELCA Lutheran organizations (affiliations?, associations?, denominations?, church bodies?, collaborative ministries?, community of confessing Lutherans?, partners?) is becoming diffuse and confusing to track the connective tissue. Lutheran CORE apparently sees itself as the central nervous system connecting Lutheran Congregations in Mission (LCMC), the WordAlone Network, and the newly created NALC, while retaining its tentacles into the ELCA (but withholding its financial support, of course).
So, what exactly will this new NALC organization look like? How will it function? What services will it provide? Of course, we know they hope to be a “reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism”, crossing borders into Canada to the north and Mexico and the Caribbean to the south. Whew! Impressive. While NALC will be “a new denominational body for confessing Lutherans,” it will also “work in close partnership and cooperation with the community of Lutheran CORE” and “will look to Lutheran CORE … for many resources.” While NALC will have its own organizational structure headed by a bishop, will the Lutheran CORE hierarchy remain the real power behind the throne?
NALC proposes to be a “big tent” that accepts differing views of ministry policies regarding the status of those eligible for the ordained clergy.
The NALC and Lutheran CORE will recognize both women and men in the office of ordained clergy, while acknowledging the diversity of opinion that exists within the Christian community on this subject.
Wait a minute. Isn’t the whole raison d’être for Lutheran CORE wrapped up in their unwillingness to accept the ELCA decision to recognize both gay and straight in the office of ordained clergy, while acknowledging the diversity of opinion that exists within the Christian community on this subject? Do they not see the irony, if not the inconsistency, in their position? There’s room for differing views on women clergy in the NACL tent but not for differing views on gay clergy.
The document allows, nay encourages, dual membership in NALC and the ELCA.
Lutheran CORE recognizes and affirms those congregations and individuals who feel called to remain within the ELCA and who wish to continue to work for the reform of the ELCA and to witness to Biblical and confessional teachings and practices, as well as to support others remaining in the ELCA. Some of these congregations and individuals may choose dual membership in the ELCA and the NALC. Others may be members of Lutheran CORE on an individual, congregational or partnership basis.
While these individuals and congregations may remain within the ELCA only in a formal sense, they may look to the Lutheran CORE community as their church beyond the congregation … often re-designating their benevolence outside the mission support system of the ELCA.
How will ELCA leadership respond? From the ELCA’s inception, its governing documents have precluded dual membership in another denomination for either pastors or congregations, according to a January 19th memo distributed by ELCA secretary David Swartling. While there have been instances in the past where such dual memberships have been overlooked (interestingly, the practice ended at the insistence of the LCMS, not the ELCA), one wonders whether and how the ECLA will enforce these policies in the future. Already, the January 19th memo produced a hew and cry about the heavy handed policies of the ELCA.
One final note for today; the document includes this statement:
We affirm the authority of the canonical Holy Scriptures as the only source and norm of our faith and life.
“Only”. That’s a significant statement. No room for reason. No room for conscience. No room for experience. No room for scientific, historical, or empirical evidence. It would seem that CORE is boxing itself into a corner with the infallible and inerrant fundamentalists with a far more restrictive attitude than any mainstream Christian denomination, including Roman Catholicism.