As the heavily burdened train moves steadily onward to the momentous meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis, Minn., this coming August, the Southwestern Washington Chapter of the WordAlone Network continues to plan meetings and forums to provide information regarding the probably controversial proposals that, if adopted, may change the policies and direction of the ELCA.
On Feb.7, our Southwestern Washington Chapter of the WordAlone Network held a forum to discuss "The Future Course of the ELCA" at First Lutheran Evangelical Church in Tacoma, Wash.
We invited two outstanding Lutheran pastors in our area as presenters for this examination and discussion of anticipated proposals that will come to the voting members of the churchwide assembly for consideration.
Victor Langford, pastor of St. Mark Lutheran Church in Seattle, and a member of the Lutheran CORE Steering Committee presented the concerns of the coalition for reform regarding the plans and direction of the ELCA during these unsettling times in our church and nation.
Pastor Gary Jepsen, speaker and author, of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Puyallup, Wash., spoke on "The Role of Reason in Lutheran Deliberation." He explored the current theological trend that poses threats to the traditional emphasis on the centrality of Christ in our redemption. His speech given at the WordAlone annual convention of the Network last year and other papers by him may be read on www.wordalone.org.
The presentations were followed with questions from the audience and a discussion by a panel chaired by our chapter president, Pastor Bill Johnson, Jepsen and Langford, and assistant to the Southwestern Washington Synod bishop, Pastor Ron Hoyum.
The Spirit is moving people as His church approaches crisis, and the response to our invitations to this Saturday event was most encouraging. More than 80 people -- a good representation of pastors and lay people from area Lutheran churches -- indicated a committed effort to understand the serious threats to the future of the ELCA.
Our chapter will meet regularly in the months ahead leading up to the Southwestern Washington Synod meeting May 15-16 in Tacoma and the churchwide assembly in Minneapolis in August. On May 16, our chapter will hold a luncheon meeting during the synod assembly to discuss proposals, resolutions, memorials and a report of plans and activities of WordAlone and Lutheran CORE. We have invited Pastor Mark Chavez, vice president of the WordAlone Network and the director of Lutheran CORE to be our speaker for the day.
In a previous article I wrote a proposed resolution for review and evaluation by this reading audience. Thank you for sending suggestions and recommendations to enhance its potential use. Following this input, our chapter board members spent a major part of one recent meeting in editing and adding to its substance, improving content and adopted the following proposed resolution for consideration. Again your suggestions and recommendation will be welcome and appreciated. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
TITLE: Reaffirming the Authority of the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions and Reclaiming Their Foundational Role for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been undergoing various social and theological studies and discussions regarding the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and the confessional and constitutional foundations of our church.
WHEREAS, there is a desire to maintain the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as one unified body under the banner of Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior, and His Living Word of Truth; and
WHEREAS, it has become necessary to provide a strong statement of our commitment to our Lutheran heritage in the Inspired Word of God in and through the Holy Scriptures,
This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.
This church accepts the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church.
This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel acknowledging as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.
This church confesses the Gospel, recorded in the Holy Scripture and confessed in the ecumenical creeds and Lutheran confessional writings, as the power of God to create and sustain the Church for God's mission in the world." (from chapter 2 of the ELCA constitution, the confession of faith)
WHEREAS, there is concern among some ELCA members that the ELCA is drifting from its historic doctrinal and confessional commitments; and
WHEREAS, in spite of a growing national population, the ELCA continues to suffer the loss of both members and member congregations; and
WHEREAS, it is only proper that the ELCA respond to such concerns and trends with pastoral care and reassurance; and
WHEREAS, such pastoral concern will necessarily include assurance that the ELCA remains committed to its historic doctrinal and confessional commitments as expressed in its constitutional statement of faith; and
WHEREAS, pastoral concern for fairness and the desire for good order in the church also require adherence to existing doctrinal and confessional commitments, as well as to existing guidelines and policies;
BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that (the name of congregation or synod) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (at its 2009 congregational or synod meeting) reaffirms its acceptance and commitment to the ELCA constitutional statement of faith; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that (synod or congregation or ELCA) accepts and re-commits affirmatively to ELCA current policies, "Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers," and "Definition and Guidelines for Discipline;" and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the (name) Synod memorialize the 2009 Churchwide Assembly to accept, and recommit to, the foundational requirements of the ELCA constitutional statement of faith and the ELCA's current policies, "Vision and Expectations: Ordained Ministers," adopted in 1990 by the Church Council, and "Definition and Guidelines for Discipline," approved in 1993 by the Church Council.
(Resolution adopted by the Southwestern Washington Chapter Board of Directors, member of the WordAlone Network, on Dec. 17, 2008)
Concluding this article, I continue to be amazed that God has given me the privilege to stand up and speak out for Jesus Christ and His Word. I will be 82 years of age this month and feel more confident than at any other time in my life about God and His promises.