Lutheran CORE and NALC: Trouble brewing

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Pondering Pastor


12 responses to “Lutheran CORE and NALC: Trouble brewing

  1. Y0ur observations about NALC and CORE may or may not be accurate. But I don’t think you understand LCMC. LCMC has been around for 11 years, and is going strong. There is no controversy, there is not conflict. LCMC now has over 300 congregations carrying out the Great Commission. We in LCMC harbor no ill will towards the ELCA, or CORE/NALC for that matter. We are churches that value our autonomy and fulfilling the Great Commission. LCMC is most certainly not personality driven. There are only 1.5 employees! Leadership is made up of a board, full of humble, understated people. So, like I said, your obeservations on CORE/NALC may be accurate, but I think you have the wrong idea about LCMC.

  2. I have read some odd comments lately but yours takes the cake! Your speculation is, in my view, without merit. It seems that you have a specfic agenda that embraces the ELCA’s heresy. NALC should prove a historic step forward, unlike the unmitigated disaster that embraces liberal Protestantism through the courtesy of the ELCA.

  3. Our congregation was split by the ELCA resolutions. Mind you these resolutions did not become policy until last week. Right after the assembly our council president (with pressure from “founding members”) went off the deep end on our pastor. He started a movement to leave the ELCA. Our pastor tried to get this group to look at other ways to address this situation. There was no other solution than to force a vote of the congregation. Our Bishop came to try to “talk them down” to no avail. He even proposed a LCMC/ELCA hybrid. This group went to the ends of the earth for this vote. They even got some people who tad left to come back for this vote. The ELCA requires 2 votes with a 2/3 majority each time to leave. They poured into this meeting knowing they would be having Christmas services in “their church”. I think they were more interested in the building. The vote failed, much to their dismay… Their LCMC church was commissioned that very day. These people were nasty, no one could get a word in that contradicted them, so we stayed silent. When they tried to do a coup on the council and take the church politically our pastor lowered the boom on them. Then they emailed the entire congregation about how mean the pastor was.

    Sorry for the long story to get here.

    Our Bishop, and pastor warned us about the LCMC. There is no accountability, no support, and no intent to provide any. Their leadership is made up of pastors (or not) who were kicked out or unhappy with their previous churches. The LCMC church here contracted the loudest member of their group to be their PASTOR. He doesn’t even have one college degree. OMG!

    If the LCMC knew the back-story on these people… well I guess they are more interested in that three hundred and first church, and not the theology behind it! Very Sad, Very Sad indeed.

    • Bob Johnson wrote on 4-15-10 reference a LCMC Pastor “He doesn’t even have one college degree. OMG!” I was wondering which disciple, or apostle had a graduate or undergraduate college degree? Next, isn’t using “OMG” a violation of the Second Commandment?

  4. How sad . . .

    How sad that the Church is such a bad example of how to love one another. It’s sad that the ELCA is not the first to be ripped apart in such a way. It’s sad that postings like this one are read by thoes who question the validity of being a Christian at all, and are shown such amazing hypocracy. Not one of us is without fault. As you post here and elseware, please think about the effect you may have on someone who may read your post who is not familliar with “the fight”. God’s Peace to you all.

  5. I live in a very rural and conservative area. (I am very opposite from this)and I was lucky enough to be a voting member at the 2009 national assembly…before I even went to Minnesota I did hours of praying and research. The faith journey I experienced was overwhelming and highly emotional. The last post on this page truly spoke to me…. I am deeply upset by the way the Lutheran church has been torn apart by this issue. Being rather rather liberal when i returned to my conservative home town i faced anger and hostility from fellow church member saying ” It came down to one vote, if you had voted differently none of this would be happening.” This has even put stress on my family life being a pastors child my parents feel very strongly and differently than I do and are founding members of NALC(as you can imagine this is kinda awkward) ….Needless to say college, and my faith life there has been a welcome escape..through out this past year Ive had time to realize that i don’t want my relationship with God to be one involving anger and politics. At the end of my life here on earth when i go to be with my father he will not ask me if i was NALC, ELCA, Baptist, Catholic,Methodist…ect…As a Christian I do the best i can to please my lord, I do what i believe he calls me to do, and I know i am FAR from perfect that no denomination is perfect and its impossible to find one that is ….

    I realize that i kinda went on a rant….I apologize lol

    Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the [filling of] Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.
    You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’
    John 3:5-8 (NIV)

    said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?
    I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.
    I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?
    John 3:10b-13 (NIV)

    IN THE LIVING BIBLE there are 88 references.

    • ponderingpastor

      I approved this message but there is nothing helpful about it. Simply quoting scripture out of context does nothing to advance discussion or the faith.

  7. We live in a small rural area and have a splintor group that has broken off from our ELCA church and formed an NALC church, with all of about 15 members. The pastor is a former ELCA pastor that has failed, much like your statements above. The thing that really bothers me is why they cannot leave in peace and leave the rest of us alone. They are constantly calling our members and trying to convince them how awful the ELCA is and how awful our pastor is. Why can’t they just go and let us be?

    Also, when looking at the NALC webpage, I wish they would remove all the ELCA referals. Why can’t they make their church stand on their own beliefs instead of what they are not…as in ELCA?

  8. Keep pondering brother, sister, whoever you are because you are in way over your head and have not even the slightest clue about who we are in NALC or Lutheran CORE. The partnership between the two groups, attempting to keep relationship and connection between those who have left ELCA and those who are staying, is what reconfiguration is about – and it has never been tried before, at least not successfully. Perhaps you should attend next year’s convocation as my guest and get to know us from up close rather than taking cheap shots from afar – I will pay your way. Once you educate yourself, you will have a real platform from which to blow your windy, but way-off-base static across the internet. Per the last post, if comments on the NALC webpage bother you, I suggest you stop reading it! I’ve served as an ELCA pastor for 22 year and was recently in the ELCA call process for 14 months (thinking stupidly that God might be calling me to stay) but was blackballed for being a CORE member and pastor of a congregation that took a 94% first vote to leave. Some bumbling idiot bishop’s assistant deactivated my rostered leader profile because I hinted that I might leave the ELCA, thus pulling the plug on my call process while I was still serving on the Synod Council. 19 days after my congregatin left, the Synod Committe I had served on voted to remove my name from the ELCA clergy roster like I never existed. The vindictive, elite leadership of the ELCA – concerned only with butts in the pew and dollars in their coffers to pay their previously bloated staff but now shrinking staff, and maintain their opulent building – now have plans to make it more difficult to allow congregations to leave. They will no doubt enact these restrictive policies at next week’s churchwide assembly, and you will continue to applaud their coercive tactics and bash those who have been their victims. If you want to bloviate about something, how about doing a post on how the “bound conscience” policy is working out for those who can’t spew the party line? We won’t shut up about stuff like this and we won’t simply go away, so get used to us. There are congregations voting every week now, and we have received 28 new NALC members for every hour we’ve been in existence. Not as rapid as the rapid as the rate of ELCA’s decline, I know – but still not bad, don’t you think?

    • ponderingpastor

      Please note that this post was written a year and a half ago. You respond as if it was current news. I’ve attended plenty of CORE events, and found them quite lacking. I chose not to attend others. Thanks for the offer, I’ll not use my time in that way. I’ll read widely, including CORE and NALC material even if it “bothers”me. I don’t only read that with which I agree.
      1. Hinting that you might be leaving the ELCA and feel persecuted that you didn’t get a call or were treated abruptly by synod staff? I’d not be surprised.
      2. A congregation is never the pastor’s. It is Christ’s church entrusted to the pastor’s care within the denomination. Pastors have inappropriately led congregations out of the ELCA because of their own agenda.
      3. Congregations leaving the ELCA have abused the system and so the ELCA is closing loopholes. How many second votes should a congregation be allowed to have? Some have taken multiple. I watched as our own Bishop was not given voice in a congregation meeting. As a synod authorized observer, I was thrown out of a meeting of a congregation.
      4. The bound conscience is a term binding on me, not on others. In other words, it is inappropriate to demand that someone honor my bound conscience.


  9. What I find disturbing is the lack of Christian love among the members of Christ’s Church. My own church body – LCMS – has been guilty of this as well so I am truly not making an attempt at self-righteousness.

    I find it sad when churches split. We in LCMS had our own “troubles” back in the 1970s of which I am certain that an ELCA pastor would be aware since the former AELC is part of the ELCA. The original split was so acrimonious – both sides – that it was appalling. I would have hoped that others would have learned from that experience.

    Solomon was indeed right. There is nothing new under the sun.

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