The Lutheran Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the ELCA. In the latest issue, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson proclaims “Days of Timidity are over”. The Bishop does not mention the present controversy with Lutheran CORE/NALC (North American Lutheran Church) and LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ), but undoubtedly that was on his mind. He writes,
In these uncertain and challenging times, I have pondered Paul’s words to Timothy: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7; New International Version).
Timidity is not one of God’s gifts to us, but we must assess it if we run the risk of becoming a timid church body.
A timid church focuses on what is lost or lacking: members, financial assets, numbers of congregations, or the number of students in programs and schools. A timid church battens down the hatches and tries to hold on to what and who remains.
A timid church defines itself (or lets others do so) on the basis of controversies or partisan divisions. Yearning for a life without tension, a timid church faces the future with fear and foreboding.
Most of all, a timid church has lost confidence — faith — in the gospel and the power of the Spirit to work through the gospel. A timid church has lost its trust in God’s promise to be faithful to God’s promise, and each part becomes preoccupied with its own survival. A timid church does not entrust its whole life to the power and promise of Christ’s death and resurrection.
As I said to synod bishops, synod vice presidents and seminary presidents in early October, I believe it is time for us to declare together: “In the name of Jesus Christ, our days of timidity are over!”
It is time for us to say with confidence: “By the power of the Spirit, we are a church confident that we have all we need. We have the treasure God has entrusted to us: the treasure of the gospel, incarnate in Jesus Christ.”
So, in response to the title of this post, this is what the Lutheran has printed. What is it that it did not print? Daniel Lehmann is the editor of the Lutheran, and he wrote a statement of policy in the September issue in which he said that NALC would receive no special treatment:
Page 8 of this issue contains a 203-word article (“Another Lutheran body formed”) on the founding of another Lutheran denomination. No more, no less.
The North American Lutheran Church came about in response to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly decisions on sexuality. Its leadership hails from the ELCA roster. Many of the 18 churches that signed on before the actual creation of the NALC were once ELCA congregations.
What we have here is a classic case of schism — a formal division or separation in the Christian church. That cleaving causes pain as your editor knows, having left the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod decades ago in another schism.
So now the NALC becomes, in the eyes of this magazine, one more Lutheran denomination. Just as the staff follows major events in the life of the LCMS, the same will be true with the NALC. The Lutheran won’t give it any special coverage just because of its heritage. This group, like Elvis, has left the building.
Octogenarian Carl Braaten is an esteemed elder of Lutheran academia; in his later years, he has grown fond of bashing the ELCA. He is one of the coterie of theologians who attempt to provide academic cover for the CORE/NALC dissidents, but his hyperbole has too often drifted into name-calling and petulant whining. Recently, in response to Editor Lehmann’s statement above, Braaten has written an open letter:
- he accuses Lehmann and the magazine of being lackeys of the ELCA leadership, taking “the side of the bureaucrats”
- he suggests the policy announced by Lehmann is “petty”
- he whines about the refusal of the magazine to accept advertising for CORE’s theological conference, protesting that the conference was coincidental to the formation of a new denomination a month later
- he disagrees that CORE/NALC is schismatic [how many times have we heard “we did not leave the ELCA, the ELCA left us]
- he again takes the opportunity to swipe at the ELCA quota system for voting members and “radical theological feminism” [is that a euphemism for ordaining women?]
- There’s a very small country church near Northfield that had a part time pastor. Early on, it became obvious that the church would vote to leave the ELCA, and the pastor made it clear that she would remain an ELCA pastor and would not leave with the congregation. When the day came for the final vote, everyone knew that would be the pastor’s last day. After the vote to leave became official on a Sunday afternoon, the congregation called the ELCA synod office that week requesting assistance with pulpit supply for the following Sunday.
- Braaten expresses the same naiveté. When you choose to leave, and not without mean-spirited parting shots, it would appear self-evident that doors close behind you. Just as it was silly for that congregation to expect ELCA assistance with arranging pulpit supply, Braaten and CORE shouldn’t expect the Lutheran Magazine, the official publication of the ELCA, to beat the drum for CORE/NALC.