From the Disk of the Pastor September 2010
Dear Friends in Christ,
If you noticed your alphabet soup at lunch had a few more letters in it, you’re right. It does. As I am writing this the NALC - the North American Lutheran Church - is holding its constituting convention in Columbus, Ohio. (Having grown up in Michigan in the midst of the Bo and Woody Wars, one must ask; can anything good come from Columbus? Go blue! Beat those Buckeyes! Or as a common bumper sticker read; OhhowIhateOhioState.) The NALC is a break off from the ELCA. They have over 1100 delegates in attendance. I am assuming that represents congregations, probably pastoral and lay delegates. So at least over 500 congregations. If we project that out, the initial membership is probably in the 250,000 range - about half the size of the Wisconsin Synod (WELS). However, once formed, it is likely to grow very rapidly. Most of that growth will come from the ELCA. So as they grow the ELCA declines.
The ELCA had a net loss of 90,000 members in 2009. It is likely that NALC represents less than half of the losses that the ELCA will experience in 2010. A few congregations, like Zion Lutheran, in Mission Valley, Texas, have joined us in Missouri. Most ELCA congregations have lost individual members. In some cases the losses have been nearly half the congregation, as happened in Grantsburg. Some are forming new congregations and choosing to remain independent for the moment. Others congregations are leaving the ELCA but not joining one of these groups. It seems likely that at least one more church body will yet be formed from ELCA refugees.
How do we view this? Do we rejoice? Are we sad? The answer is yes. We are sad that relationships are shattered. We are sad that false doctrine is being promoted by church officials. We rejoice that some are turning back to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. We must remember that this is not a game we’re trying to win. This is God’s Church. Our focus must always be on what this does to the proclamation of the Gospel.
Where is the NALC at theologically compared to the ELCA and the LCMS? They reject homosexual ordination and fellowship with the Episcopal Church (ECUSA). At issue on this second point it the teaching of Apostolic Succession. The Episcopal Church teaches that only those who can trace their ordination back to the Apostles through an unbroken string of hands are validly ordained. The ELCA had more or less accepted this notion when they went into fellowship with the ECUSA. On the flip side, the NALC does not recognize the Scriptural prohibition on the ordination of women. They still endorse the liberal method of interpreting the Scriptures. It is also felt that the NALC is theologically in motion. It is not now where it will be. And what direction it will move is not predicable. So at this moment there is no possibility of Altar and Pulpit Fellowship between the NALC and the LCMS. One cannot, however, rule that out in the future.
How should we speak to NALC people as we deal with them? We should be friendly toward them. It took great courage and sacrifice to get where they are now. We should encourage them to dig ever deeper into the Scriptures and the Confessions. Perhaps there might even be forums where we can do that together. Most of all, we should pray for them. They are our brothers in Christ. Yes, we are separated by doctrinal differences, but never forget that they are still our fellow believers in Christ.
Rev. Jody Walter
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:104-105