In the classic movie, Casablanca, the Claude Rains character speaks the immortal line, “I’m shocked … SHOCKED to see that there’s gambling going on in this establishment … Round up the usual suspects.”  Of course, the humor lies in the fact that the character was not surprised at all, a point made when the croupier handed him his winnings.

For those who have been listening to the incendiary rhetoric of Lutheran Core, it comes as no surprise that they have announced the formation of a new Lutheran denomination.

Leaders of Lutheran CORE (Coalition for Renewal) have voted to begin work on a proposal for a new Lutheran church body for those who choose to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, they announced Wednesday, Nov. 18.

The proposed new church body is intended to provide a place for congregations that desire a more traditional denominational structure.

And, the announcement comes with CORE’s typical judgmental, self-righteous, self-congratulatory tone of voice:

We are not leaving the ELCA. The ELCA has left us. Lutheran CORE is continuing in the Christian faith as it has been passed down to us by generations of Christians. The ELCA is the one that has departed from the teaching of the Bible as understood by Christians for 2,000 years.

And, with big elephant tears that barely mask their glee:

We grieve that it has become necessary for so many to leave the ELCA.

If they are truly saddened by ELCA defections, why has CORE been the rabble-rousing cheerleader?

Nor is it surprising that the announcement should come from the offices of the WordAlone Network, the conservative group that has been an ELCA irritant for over a decade, formed initially to resist the ELCA’s ecumenical agreement with the Episcopal Church.  For many, the decisions at the 2009 ELCA assembly are merely the occasion to press long-standing anti-ELCA resentments.

CORE’s press release favorably mentions Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), a loose affiliation of congregations that is something less than a denomination.  “Lutheran CORE has been in conversation with Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ …and will continue to work closely with LCMC,” states the CORE press release.  LCMC’s website includes a list of seminaries from which their congregations may seek Pastors, but they are mostly Baptist or non-denominational!  So much for maintaining a purer stream of Lutheranism.

Pretty Good Lutherans blog has a post with links to numerous newspaper articles about the CORE press release.  One of the comments to the post offered the following insight:

Lutheran CORE said that it would wait a year to make any decision about leaving the ELCA (see their Sept 26 press release). Clearly they’ve been moving in this direction, but accelerating their formal plans for creating a new denomination, and abandoning their own calls for a deliberative, slow, cautious move, is a rather swift change in policy. Though surely a lot of trust was already broken between Lutheran CORE and those of us committed to staying in the ELCA, this breach of their own self-imposed commitment to wait one year surely doesn’t give any reason for those who are suspicious of Lutheran CORE to believe a word that they say.

  Round up the usual suspects.