Earlier this week we ran a post about a federation of congregations called the LCMC (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ). This coming week another group of Lutherans is organizing only this time it is resulting in an actual denomination. The Lutheran CORE group is heading up the effort to constitute this new denomination, the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). Here is the report from their recent newsletter.
More than 1,000 Lutherans from throughout North America will gather Aug. 26-27 in suburban Columbus, Ohio, to form a new church body for confessional Lutherans in North America. The annual Convocation of Lutheran CORE will adopt a constitution and proposals that will give birth to the North American Lutheran Church [NALC].
They are being formed out of another preceding federation called CORE (A Community of Confessing Lutherans). Like the LCMC, CORE is not a denomination. CORE has been around for several years. They formed in reaction to growing heterodoxy in the ELCA over the years. (CORE’s original rationale for existence is similar to what the ACELC is doing in the LCMS, forming a group of congregations in response to heterodox practice and teaching within the parent denomination.)* Given the most recent decisions on sexuality in the ELCA, CORE has now seen the need to create a denomination and so they are holding a constituting convention.
Here is what they are committed to:
Both Lutheran CORE and the NALC will be centered on four key attributes: Christ-Centered; Mission-Driven; Traditionally-Grounded, and Congregationally-Focused.
The issue as CORE sees it and for that matter as the LCMS sees it, is the authority of Scripture.
Those involved with Lutheran CORE note that the problems in the ELCA are really not about sexual behavior but rather about an ongoing movement away from the authority and teaching of the Bible throughout the ELCA.
As an example of the changes in the theology of the ELCA, some have pointed to a synod-sponsored worship service July 25 in San Francisco that received seven gay, lesbian, and transgender persons as ELCA pastors. Biblical language for God was removed from the liturgy. Parts of the service addressed God as mother and used female pronouns for God. The service began with an ELCA bishop “confessing” the sins of “our church” when it upheld Biblical teaching on sexuality.
Some ELCA congregations have already voted to join the NALC even though the church body does not yet exist. Many more congregations are expected to join as the NALC takes shape. More than 275 congregations have joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ since August of 2009. LCMC is an association of Lutheran churches. Lutheran CORE and the NALC have committed to a close working relationship with LCMC. Congregations can be members of both LCMC and the NALC.
CORE is similar to the LCMC and elects a Moderator at its leader. The NALC on the other hand is a church and instead of a mere Moderator will have at its head a Bishop who it will elect next week.
The LCMS at the convention in Houston last month commended groups like CORE and the NALC for their stand against the ELCA’s recent decisions on sexuality. Such a commendation needs to be properly understood however. It is not much more than the LCMS commending the Southern Baptists for upholding the doctrine of the Trinity, were we to do that. We commend CORE for standing against apostate decisions in the ELCA but there is still much that is lacking in CORE and NALC. Until they affirm the inerrancy of Scripture and reject their current practice of ordaining women, they are not walking in concord with the Scriptures and are to be kept at a safe distance.
This new NALC denomination is a house of cards. They have a decent hand – the four principles described above – but it is still just a house of cards because it is not built on the inerrancy of Scripture. Without inerrancy, the teaching that the Scriptures are without error, the door is still left open for any unscriptural doctrine to make its way into the denomination. Without inerrancy the house of cards can collapse at any moment. For the moment it is a little stronger than the house of cards known as the ELCA but it is still built on the instability and selfishness of human reason rather than on the pure Word of God.
The NALC views the Scriptures like a menu. They have chosen sexual purity off the menu of Scripture but have decided not to choose the Scriptural teaching on limiting the office of the ministry to men. The Scriptures are not a menu but the in their entirety are the revealed truth of God.
The NALC could learn a lot from the LCMS on the authority of Scripture but here is something the LCMS could learn from NALC. From their Q and A section in their recent newsletter (p. 10)
Will the NALC have a large bureaucratic structure and a large national headquarters? No. The NALC will be very lean structurally, but there will be enough structure to help congregations with their ministries. The NALC will focus on assisting the ministry of congregations, not on congregations assisting the national church body.
This is what the Blue Ribbon Task Force should have been proposing but instead proposed changes that turn the LCMS into one large corporate/church growth type of a synod. The Task Force decided to streamline authority but the issue is not streamlined authority. The real issue is just simply streamlining. The Blue Ribbon Task Force had in mind a strong presidency geared toward changing the LCMS into a mission-driven (i.e. sacrifice nearly everything at the altar of church growth) denomination rather than just streamlining the bureaucracy and staying focused on getting the message straight and getting the message out.
The founding of the NALC is a monumental occasion in world Lutheranism. We too commend them for taking a stand against the ELCA but we also plead with the NALC to return to the pre-Enlightenment Lutheranism of our grandfather’s church that received the Scriptures from God as the pure teaching of the faith and upheld those Scriptures in all of their truth.
(You can read more about CORE and the NALC at the CORE website.)
*I was a signer of the ACELC’s original letter but with the election of Rev. Harrison to the presidency of the LCMS I no longer believe an association of congregations is needed. The ACELC has Scriptural standards of doctrine and practice to which I fully assent but their call for an association of congregations is now debatable