While I attended the 2nd annual Conference of the ACELC a few weeks ago I had the chance to sit down with Rev. Clint Poppe, the chairman of the board for the ACELC. I had the chance to ask him some of the common questions/concerns that I hear others have with the group and their actions. Hopefully this will help inform others about the ACELC.
Why did you send out the letter (fraternal admonition letter) when you did?
We were working on the letter as pastors and laity throughout the Synod and having discussions about the best way to communicate (to pastors, other publications, internet, email). We decided that since the LCMS is congregationally based our communication should go to congregations. We also decided that people respond better to a letter with a stamp on it. The letter was ready to go out several months before  Convention. Serious discussions were held among the formers of ACELC on the timing of sending out the letter, although there is never a bad time to make a good confession. After visiting and consulting with many in the church body, and to avoid the appearance of politics, it was decided that the only time that we could honestly say that we were not trying to endorse a candidate or set an agenda, it was decided to send it out during the election, during the convention. It was done precisely to avoid the appearance and charge of church politics.
Why the letter and not Dispute Resolution Process (DRP)?
One of the errors that we have pointed out is in regards to DRP. We have officially filed 3 dissents to the CTCR. We have worked within the system where we can and tried to point out the errors in the system where we could as well. There were some people very recently who had gone through DRP and were faithful and conscientious in their efforts. They went through every step meticulously, and when it came to Synodical Convention their concerns were not allowed to be heard on the convention floor. Their concerns did not make it out of the floor committee. Based on that recent experience some have felt that the DRP is broken and that it is simply an exit strategy out of the LCMS and we wish to remain in the LCMS.
Who gave you such authority?
We have no official standing or special ecclesiastical authority in the LCMS. We believe that in Christian love we are our brother’s keepers and we claim no authority other than God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions.
Assoc. Editor’s Note: Pastor Poppe pointed me to the article by Rev. James Gier which the first presentation at their first national conference. Read it here.
Often it is claimed that we should “trust” other pastors (especially in regards to worship practices), what does the ACELC say about that?
We trust that brother pastors and sister congregations will take seriously their promises made when they voluntarily joined the LCMS. This is true koinonia and a “walking together.” When anyone, including ourselves, violates that trust, the loving response is to point out the problem and seek reconciliation.
What about the Koinonia Project (KP) and the ACELC?
The ACELC doesn’t have an official connection with KP although we have been assured that many if not all of the errors we have identified will be addressed in the process. When the letter was sent out, some people were pleased, others were confused or even angry about it. The goal of the letter was to call people’s attention to the issues that are dividing our Church Body. The letter was intended as a brotherly, fraternal letter. That continues to be the goal of the ACELC to work within the LCMS in a brotherly, gentle but consistent way to point out the errors that seem to be dividing us and also pointing out the solution which is always Christ and His Word.
Is ACELC radical or extremist?
We have worked hard to do everything that we do in the light of day, nothing is done in secret. We have nothing to hide. Everything ends up on the website. If an encouragement for our brothers an sisters in the LCMS to return to God’s Word and Lutheran Confession is extreme or radical, then I guess that is what we are, we would call that being faithful.
What do you think of President Harrison?
We are 100% united in support and encouragement for President Harrison. We are ecstatic that we have a churchman, theologian, and scholar in the office of Synodical President. We pray for him daily. We encourage him in his role as Synodical President, that not only would he continue to do an extraordinary job in teaching and promoting the truth, but at the proper time and with his God-given authority that proper discipline be exercised as well.
There have been a lot of organizations geared towards reforming the LCMS that have popped up since the breakup of the Synodical Conference, they all came and went, is the ACELC different and why?
There have been a lot of organizations in the past 20 years that popped up time to time that have recognized some of the issues and division and have worked hard to point them out and solve them. Many of them are no longer around because their primary focus was church politics or a particular election. The ACELC is different. We are not a politically motivated or generated group. Our primary concern is theology and practice according to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions. We are also different in that we are not a clergy only movement, but clergy and laity working together with an eye toward congregational education and involvement.
What about starting a new synod?
The ACELC has no desire to start a new Synod. It has never been a thought or an issue with regard to the organization. Everyone in the ACELC is a member of the LCMS. We are Lutheran by conviction and we care about our church deeply, and grieve the sad divisions among us. We simply strive to be good churchmen.
What would it take for the ACELC to go away?
When all of the DP’s are united that the errors the ACELC has identified are actually errors and need to be addressed on the basis of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, there would be no need for the ACELC to exist. We are simply “barking dogs” to alert the Synod to danger.
When/Where is your next conference?
Our next conference (open for anyone who wants to attend) is April 16-18, 2013 at Trinity Lutheran in Austin, Texas. The topic of the conference is “The Divine Service and Liturgy”