Lutherans don’t appear here all that much, but it’s mostly because they have their own networks and I don’t seem to be a part of them. From First Things, by Robert Benne, emeritus at Roanoke College. The decisions in the ELCA have had a serious fallout, and Benne sketches the reorganizations from within.
However, the most interesting fall-out is the organizational changes.The two organizations formed to resist the direction of the ELCA–the Word Alone Network and Lutheran CORE–have redefined themselves. Neither desires to continue organized resistance within the ELCA, which they regard as futile. Both have turned their attention to building new organizations independent of the ELCA, as they seek to provide harbors for those in search of a church beyond their congregations.
The Word Alone Network has become Word Alone Ministries, which provides educational and worship materials, mission opportunities, and theological education for the church that it founded earlier. That church, or better, that “association of congregations,” is the Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for Christ. The LCMC was formed during the fracas over an agreement, between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church, Called to Common Mission, which required ordination to the historic episcopacy for Lutheran pastors and bishops. That requirement was anathema to the mostly Midwestern, low church Lutherans. The LCMC now lists 410 member congregations, with 191 having joined since last August. Among them are some of the largest Lutheran churches in America.
Representing the “evangelical catholic” or high church wing of the church, Lutheran CORE redefined itself after the fiasco of August 2009 as a coalition for the renewal and reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America. Though it had no initial desire to start yet another Lutheran church, CORE responded to the wave of churches wanting to leave the ELCA for a more “churchly” organization than Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, and hopes to facilitate the birth of the new North American Lutheran Church next August. It is uncertain just how many congregations will be on board at its founding.
Both CORE and the NALC see themselves as instruments of a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America–CORE as an ongoing convocation of Lutheran teaching theologians, and the NALC as an ecclesia embodying those teachings.
Whatever comes of these ventures remains to be seen. If the Holy Spirit blesses them they will flourish and provide new beginnings for Lutheranism in America. For many they are the last, great efforts to live out the promise of Lutheranism as a church on this continent. If they fail, the only remaining option may be a bracing swim across the Tiber.