President David Tiede of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, told the recent WordAlone Convention: "My witness to WordAlone is not, ‘Cheer up, get on board.’ It is, ‘Repent, turn toward God’s apostolic calling for our church in a world of many cultures and religions.’"
Speaking to the delegates in the sanctuary of North Heights Lutheran Church, Arden Hills, Minn., Tiede said more than once: "The reform of the church is not another agenda, not a restoration of the past, it is a repentance, a turning toward the future to which God is calling us."
Tiede told his audience he was grateful for WordAlone’s perseverance "in lifting the necessity of the historic episcopate without dividing the church." He cited the work of WordAlone members who attended a meeting in Milwaukee, WI, early in 2000 along with proponents of Called to Common Mission (CCM), a full communion agreement with The Episcopal Church USA approved later that year by the Episcopal Church.
That unpopular meeting produced strong recommendations, he noted, that eventually led the ELCA leadership to offer a by-law amendment allowing exceptions to the requirement of CCM that all new pastors be ordained by a bishop. That by-law change was passed by the 2001 Churchwide Assembly. He said he thought the Milwaukee meeting saved the unity of the church.
The seminary president said he knew that some WordAlone members were urgently concerned that the church have lots of exceptions and soon. He said, "I agree that we need a few good exceptions." He quoted Al Quie as having said that everybody in the Soviet Union also had a right to own a car but nobody could get one. He admitted to a hope that the first exceptions would come outside the Midwest.
He added, "But what matters is that the Gospel is unbound!"
Earlier Tiede said he did not fear or favor the historic episcopate as a symbolic office but added that when symbols become requirements, "the answer is no." After the 1999 Churchwide Assembly he said he feared that "this legislated necessity" would be destructive to the unity of the church and dangerous to Lutheran convictions of the liberating power of the Gospel.
Tiede spent the balance of his keynote address looking to the future and describing ways God is calling the church to mission. He said he was thankful for Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s fourfold call to the ELCA to mission, leadership, ecumenism and deliberation of such serious matters as homosexuality.
He encouraged the WordAlone to have its "script for mission" be inspired by two "profound" Biblical convictions.
"These are also hallmarks of the Lutheran Reformation," he told them. "The first is God’s love for sinners. The second is God’s blessing of all the saints to be a blessing in the world: justification and vocation, sinner and saint, called and sent! The subject of the verb is always God, and God turns you into an agent."
(Full texts of Dr. Tiede’s and Dr. Nestingen’s speeches are available on the news page. Pastor Mike Foss did not use a written text for his address, but it will be transcribed and made available at a later date.)