The pastors and elders of the congregation I serve, Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois, are interested enough in joining the ACELC as a congregation that we are hosting Rev. Daniel Bremer (Grace, Grand Island, NE) from their speakers bureau to introduce our congregation to their work.
What is the ACELC?
You can read more about them here. In a nutshell, they are a group of individuals and congregations who are calling the LCMS to account for the proliferation of false doctrine and practice that is allowed to exist in our synod. This is the job of our ecclesiastical supervisors but since it is not getting done and in order to benefit from mutual consolation and to just plain keep from blowing a gasket, the ACELC was formed to proactively and intentionally funnel the anger and hurt caused by unaddressed schism.
The ACELC is not a groundswell for a new synod, although that may not be such a bad idea. I have been very impressed with the sense of reason and calm by which the ACELC goes about its business. I expected them to be a bit fanatical. They are not. They are sagacious and mature in their manner. I attribute a lot of that to their chairman, Rev. Clint Poppe (Good Shepherd, Lincoln, NE) who is a passionate and persuasive man of God but who is also very wise, deliberate and personable. I have attended three of the ACELC’s conferences and they were all of the highest quality and churchmanship. It speaks volumes that three professors from the Ft. Wayne seminary spoke at their recent conference in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This is not a wild, fanatical group. This is a group of sober, serious and winsome men and women who expect our synod to live up to the confession for which we stand.
Bethany’s history with the ACELC
A little over four years ago our Board of Elders considered joining the ACELC. Before we got to the point of inviting them to present to us we began to believe that Matt Harrison actually had a chance to be elected President of the LCMS and so we decided to hold off on considering joining the ACELC as a congregation. I told the elders that I would never the less most likely sign their admonition paper and they were fine with that.
We were elated when President Harrison was elected and still are today. President Harrison has made a significant difference in the LCMS. The recent loss of RSO status for Lutheran Child and Family Services (on account of their unwillingness to cut ties with a state that requires that they place orphans into gay households) is one example of this new and better synod. For the most part however, the difference President Harrison has made is limited to the message and verbiage coming out of St. Louis. The words coming out of the Purple Palace are no longer dominated with the silliness of words like “missional” and revivalist tactics such as the evangelism encounter counter. (The actual name now escapes me, thank God.)
After nearly four years of President Harrison the language is changing but there is little evidence of any doctrinal supervision going on. (In the president’s defense not all supervision is public but there are still plenty of public issues that persist.) In my opinion, President Harrison’s greatest asset, his charm, is also his greatest weakness when it comes to church discipline. You can’t charm a false teacher into the truth. They simply abuse your charm as a vehicle for more license. I must confess that I know this from experience.
So, the sky is not falling. Let me repeat, the LCMS is in a much better place than it was four years ago. Thanks be to God. But four years has also taught this congregation that it may be time to join with this group that is calling the LCMS to faithfulness. We are looking forward to hearing Rev. Bremer preach at our four services, teach Bible class and lead a Q and A session at lunch on Sunday. I hope many of you out there reading this will consider following Bethany’s lead by trying out the ACELC.