Last night I received a phone call from Rev. Dan Bremer informing me that the ACELC has accepted my associate membership to the organization (associate membership is for individuals; membership is for congregations). Here is why I joined using the words of the organization:
Association – It is good for brothers to dwell in unity, to have association with each other. Very few Christians in history have been given the task of being the lone wolf. I am not one of them. I need an association of like-minded pastors who hold to the same beliefs and confession and believe this strongly enough to be labelled all sorts of things.
Confessing – Not confessional (although they are) but confessing, that is to say actively speaking out loud that which has been given to them. Pure doctrine has lungs, it seeks to speak. To be confessional means to be confessing – especially in the face of a world gone mad and a Church seemingly obsessed with pining after the adoration of the world.
Evangelical – There is nothing greater than the Evangel (Gospel). Every single error promoted or tolerated in a church will somehow affect the gospel. The LCMS still believes the pure Gospel on paper, but allows false gospels equal voice with the pure one. The areas of error addressed by the ACELC are matters of the Gospel. We don’t strive to maintain pure doctrine for its own sake, but for the sake of the Gospel (which means people in need of hearing it).
Lutheran – Not in name only. The folks at the ACELC actually care about the identity of Lutherans. They actually use the Book of Concord. The subject that they are confessing is Lutheran.
Congregations – Pastors and People. Preachers and Hearers gathered around a pulpit and altar to receive what Christ gives. This is what Church is about. It is not about three (or four) layers of ivory-towered bureaucracy whose temptation is always to promote the bureaucracy and the institution. The congregation is the place where the gifts are, the place where Christ is. The people of the ACELC are connected to pulpits and pews, not cubicles and programs and policies.
Another few things:
Love – True love, the kind that put Christ on the Cross, will speak the truth, sometimes the hard truth. While many are content to rejoice in mercy or in refurbishing old buildings, love demands that we look out for one another and the teaching. My best friends are those who have no problem criticizing my words or actions. They love me enough to care about me, my vocation as a pastor, and the people that I serve. Would that we had the same love? The ACELC shows love.
Guts & Spine – The ACELC has been around long enough now to hear the major complaints and name-calling that come from those who prefer the glossy, full-color world of the brand “LCMS”. They are still here, doing the same thing they were when they started. Despite being ignored, made fun of, betrayed, and all sorts of slandered – they still are confessing. They are Lutherans by conviction. I want to confess too.
Exposing the Elephants in the Room – For far too long we have let things slide without commentary. C.P. Krauth points out the progression of error this way. First it asks tolerance (check). Then it asks equal standing (check). Then it seeks dominance (coming to a Synod near you). The ACELC has spoken to the errors. They have provided ample evidence of the errors. They have provided Biblical, Confessional teaching on the matters of error. They host some of the best conferences each year which address hard issues. Nobody wants to talk about the sinful treatment of pastors in parishes that dismiss them (except a notable few who are immediately labelled as radicals). The ACELC is having a full conference on the matter.
“It’s Time” – yeah, I still like the paper, the way it was originally put forward. The ACELC is doing what it asked for. The Koinonia Project is exactly what the paper didn’t call for. In fact, here are some of the original headings of that fine work which I believe the ACELC is addressing:
– The First Thing Necessary – Honesty about what we face.
– Now is the Time for Courage and to get our act together for the sake of the mission given us
– A Simple, Non-Bureaucratic Proposal Toward Re-establishing Unity in the LCMS for the Sake of Mission and Mercy
Honesty. Check – they even have the evidence for it. Yes, there are problems and they name them. It is not just a generic reference to challenges but instead a calling a thing what it is – error in doctrine and practice. Sin. Where else do we see such honesty?
Courage. Check – just bring up the ACELC to some folks and listen to the criticism, and yet they are still confessing. The truth is not measured against perceptions and polls, rulings on what bylaws may or may not say, coming election cycles or the art of the possible. Let the Word do its work.
Simplicity. Check – error pointed out, Scriptures taught. Confessions taught. No complex papers on procedure. No gag orders. Just here are the errors, here is what the Bible says, and here is what we as Lutherans confess. Simple.
Is the ACELC a new church body? No. They are trying to call a church body back to what it has always believed. Are they going to leave the LCMS? Why would they? They are what the LCMS used to be. UPDATE: I was asked about the idea of LCMS romanticism because of this comment. I by no means think that such a golden age has existed. There will be error in churches, the question of our day is the toleration of it. The doctrine of the LCMS used to inform her practices more than they do today, that is all I am trying to say by this.
I am glad to be counted as one of the members of the ACELC. If what you have read above resounds in the slightest bit with you, consider reading up on the ACELC and consider making your voice known in membership. They care about Lutheran beliefs and practices enough to say so.