DID YOU MISS ME?
Well, it happened. I sold one house, bought another and moved all of my earthly goods from thither to hither. It has been a difficult, but rewarding, process and has necessitated my absence from this blog for a little more than two weeks.
The North American Lutheran Church (NALC) has been constituted. I have promised myself not to be snarky about it. So, you won't hear me comment about the "realignment of Lutheranism in North America" involving only 16 congregations. Nor will I point out the irony of this new church body sharing its initials with LC/NA.*
If I may be uncharacteristically sincere for a moment, I actually wish the NALC well. They may not represent a seismic shift in Lutheranism, but I am sure that they will grow. Many of their constituents will be people I consider friends, colleagues, even teachers and mentors. I understand that their consciences are bound such that they no longer feel they can remain members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). "Go in peace. Serve the Lord."
We have much in common. I truly believe that there is only one issue separating us, and it is not the interpretation of Scripture. I hope that we can stay in touch.
I surmise that the NALC will practice open Communion, at least with those who, like the ELCA, affirm the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Sacrament. I hope that I will be welcome at the NALC's altar rail. Members of the NALC will certainly be welcome at mine. Okay, it's not mine. It's the Lord's table. I will not put any impediment in the way of an NALC member from receiving the means of grace.
Here's a crazy idea: what if the ELCA and the NALC worked out a full Communion agreement? The ELCA has been able to make full Communion agreements with other denominations, why not the NALC with whom we have so much in common? It would be the first such agreement that the ELCA has made with another Lutheran church body. (No one fights like family).
In the meantime, the ELCA's first presiding bishop, Herb Chilstrom lit up the blogosphere with an article posing three pointed questions to those leaving the ELCA. There have been a variety of responses, some downright rude. None that I have seen has answered Chilstrom's first question to my satisfaction. The Bishop asks, Why this issue? What is it about sexuality that became the tipping point for you? Most replies have been to the effect that "It's not about sex. It's about the interpretation of Scripture." All right. I will accept that. Chilstrom's question still stands unanswered. Why is it the intepretation of Scripture about sexuality that has nudged you to leave the ELCA?
Elsewhere on the internet, Father Anonymous has blogged about the Brothers of John the Steadfast, a bunch of Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LC-MS) conservatives **, adopting the motto "Your Grandfather's Church." I commend Father A's blogpost for your reading. I will only add that the LC-MS is not my grandfather's church either.
One of my grandfathers was an Irish Protestant. I do not think that he was particularly observant, though I am told that he recited a ribald toast to the Pope upon occasion. He did have a brother who pastored a spiritualist church, though he did not personally conduct the seances.
My other grandfather was alienated from the Church by an LC-MS pastor. He was not alienated from a life of faith, prayer or spirit. He was simply made to feel unwelcome in Church.
Let me also note the appropriateness of the phrase "Your Grandfather's Church" by a church body that marginalizes women from leadership roles. The LC-MS was not my grandmother's church by any measure.
More to the point, I would not want to belong to a church that has not progressed since my grandparent's day. The world has changed. Startling advances have been made in technology, science and scholarship. The Gospel must be proclaimed in ways relevant to our new and ever-changing circumstances.
Finally, *** I feel a need to weigh in on Terry Jones, the Florida preacher who has garnered undue attention by announcing plans to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center (WTC). I will not mince words. Terry Jones is a publicity whore and a hate-filled extremist. He does not represent any form of Christianity that I recognize. He does not speak for the God I worship.
To my Muslim neighbors: Just as I do not assume that the terrorists who destroyed the WTC are representative of Islam, I ask you, please, do not assume that Terry Jones is representative of Christianity.
* Sorry about the implied snark.
** "Conservative" is a relative term. That is to say, the Steadfast Lutherans are conservative even for the LC-MS.
*** I usually try to keep these essays around 500 words in length. If you are still reading, thank you for indulging me.