According to the website of Lutheran Core, 1200 persons have registered for the Convocation scheduled for Indianapolis Sept 25-26.  This convocation begs the question, “What is Lutheran Core and what are their intentions?” I am certainly not privy to any informal discussions or behind the scenes plotting, so I can only draw inferences from their published statements. 

According to the headline on their website, they intend to form an “Alternative church fellowship for Lutherans.”  Alternative.  Alternative to … The ELCA?  The LCMS?  The Wisconsin Synod? Church Fellowship.  What is a church fellowship? I’m guessing it’s more than coffee and cookies after Sunday services.

The Core press release dated September 15th states they intend “a change in focus from efforts to reform the ELCA to an effort to enable traditional Lutherans to work together whether within or outside of the ELCA.”  So, they are transitioning from being a voice of the loyal opposition within the ELCA to … what exactly?

What is Lutheran Core and what are their intentions?  According to the aforementioned press release, their self description is variously noted as:

A confessional and confessing movement

A churchly community

A free-standing synod

An umbrella group for other Lutheran reform movements

A coalition of synods, congregations, individuals, and reform movements

Yet, they seemingly cling to the ELCA with the words, “within or outside”.  Lutheran Core has previously counseled patience and due deliberations, suggesting withdrawal from the ELCA to be rash.  Which is it, “within or outside?” 

What is Lutheran Core and what are their intentions? What can we glean from their proposed constitution posted on their website?  The constitution again refers to Core as a movement, a churchly community, a free standing synod, an umbrella group, and a coalition, but under Chapter 3, entitled “Nature of the Church”, the second paragraph refers to itself, Lutheran Core, as the church.  Whoa! That’s pretty revealing. 

But then, more ambiguity when it suggests as potential members of Core: individuals within the ELCA, congregations of the ELCA, and even whole synods of the ELCA.  And, as the constitutional statement of purpose, to “Cooperate, wherever possible, with synods and other units within the ELCA.”

Within or outside?

The ELCA constitution allows 65 regional synods across the United States.  When Lutheran Core suggests it will be a “free standing synod”, do they expect to be recognized as the 66th synod within the ELCA?  A super-synod with powers greater than the other 65?  Presumably, they are sage enough to understand such a restructuring would require amendment of the ELCA constitution.

Does Core really expect an ELCA  constitutional amendment creating an alternative power structure in open opposition to the adopted policies of the church and in open opposition to the existing leadership?  An alternative power structure with a seat at the table  “regarding the candidacy process, the calling process, and in disciplinary procedures; and in the resolution of congregational and other conflicts?”  An alternative power structure with a seat at the table to “provide alternative resources for congregational life in worship, Christian education, and youth ministry?”  An alternative power structure with a seat at the table determining which Synodical and ELCA ministries are worthy of financial support? 

These and other power sharing items are mentioned in Core’s draft constitution.  Do they seriously believe the ELCA will vote by the 2/3 majority required to amend its constitution to restructure itself along these lines?  When?  Only the churchwide assembly can amend the constitution, and the next churchwide assembly will be in two years.  Does Core intend to spend the next two years getting it’s ducks in order for a constitutional assault in 2011?

What is Lutheran Core and what are their intentions?  Is this statement from Core sincere?

Now is not the time to make rash, hasty decisions. Most people make serious mistakes when they make decisions under pressure. We do not want to make this mistake now. Our relationship with the ELCA is a serious matter for us.

Or, is this “within or outside” merely a subterfuge? In an August 21 press release, Core renounced its relationship with the ELCA, and also urged ELCA members and congregations to redirect funds away from the ELCA national church body with a veiled invitation to redirect the funds to Core. Their number one talking point is “We are not leaving the ELCA. The ELCA is leaving us.”

One ELCA pastor’s blog suggests Core is hanging around the ELCA for awhile for purely financial reasons. 

Ask people to move their funds and then later on down the line decide to leave.  The answer as to why they are not leaving yet is finances.  Now, this may not be the only answer, but think about it for a second.  If a pastor were to leave the ELCA and join another group what would happen is that pastor would leave all medical insurance and they would leave their pension behind.  This is what happens when a pastor leaves the ELCA.  Also, they would not be a recognized member of the clergy, so that status would be gone.  This is why they need funds to set these things up.  Licenses cost, insurance costs, pensions cost, all of these things cost money.

Does Lutheran Core (and the WordAlone Network, their fellow travelers) intend to remain within the ELCA or is their long term intention to become an entirely new and separate Lutheran denomination?