I realize for many this is really an “insider” post, but sometimes something simply needs to be said.
Lutheran CORE (COalition for REnewal) released their proposal for “a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America” last week. Never underestimate this group’s tendency to overstate their case and conduct public “chest thumping”.
Reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America? Come on! It is simply a new denomination, among more than a dozen in the United States alone. Yes, they envision congregations in Canada, making this an “international” denomination. Why don’t they choose to use this term?
I find it quite ironic that one of their key “talking points” since the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA in 2009 has been that they did not leave the ELCA, the ELCA left them. If that’s true, then it is the ELCA that is responsible for the reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America, not Lutheran CORE.
Having said that, there appear to be some very significant challenges ahead for Lutheran CORE and this new NALC (North American Lutheran Church). A little reading between the lines gets us there.
- There appear to be some “turf wars” brewing. Throughout the life of the groups protesting the actions of the ELCA (including WordAlone and Lutheran CORE as dominate groups) there seems to be significant attention by some of the personalities to “wear multiple hats” and have responsibilities that cross the boundaries of these groups. They report this as cooperation. I read that as an attempt to make sure that these personalities continue to play key roles in whatever finally emerges from these movements. One of the “dirty little secrets” of these organizations is that they are as much personality driven as issue driven. Lutheran CORE’s ongoing connection with NALC has a similar feel. This will get nasty when NALC becomes “mature enough” to move past these personalities, and I pray that it does for that will have to happen for NALC to be a healthy denomination. I fear that NALC will become nothing much more than a footnote in North American Lutheransim.
- I’m curious about why Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) didn’t provide the structure that Lutheran CORE was looking for. More struggles ahead? Very likely. A leader of Lutheran CORE has described LCMC and NALC as fraternal twins traveling on parallel tracks. I can only speculate that once again key personalities are involved, likely protecting turf. Unless there are significant theological differences or personalities protecting turf, there is no reason for Lutheran CORE to form a new denomination, and I don’t see the theological differences.
- Related to this is that there is evidence that significant theological effort has been focused around a few key topics, but much more work is needed. Lutheran CORE and NALC (since they are inseparable at this time I’ll start using CORE/NALC) are clear with regard to a stance on human sexuality, including homosexuality and marriage, but less clear about what it means that scripture is the “ultimate authority”. It is one thing to write the phrase and quite another to live that law/gospel dialectic. CORE/NALC walks a very fine line between a fundamentalism that will make them closer to the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and a conservative “branch” of the ELCA. One of the curious pieces in their released materials includes a specific statement about the ordination of women. Where does that come from? I believe it is evidence of dissension in the ranks and attempts at “holding the center.”
- The press releases and other material convey the heady excitement of being surrounded by only those who agree with them. “Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”(Proverbs 11:14, NRSV) CORE/NALC would do well to carefully listen to those outside their leadership circles because significant mistakes are being made in these organizing days.
- It looks to me as if the model to create the central tenants of NALC are constructed exactly upon those things many congregationalists in the ELCA found objectionable. While that is natural, it is also quite destructive to the new organism and will prove to be very divisive within a short period of time within the NALC. I really wonder if anyone with significant group dynamic experience is advising them. (Not really. It looks to me like no one with group dynamic and conflict resolution skills are helping to craft this new denomination.) At least LCMC is a completely new model departing from denominationalism.
A healthy organism can integrate a few unhealthy or off-balance members at a time. An unhealthy organism cannot. (Look at the “pack” dynamics Caesar Milan uses in the “Dog Whisperer”.) CORE/NALC is not ready as an organism to accommodate the needs of those leaving the ELCA.