This series is intended to be a public conversation among teaching theologians of the ELCA on various themes of our faith and the challenging issues of our day. It invites readers to engage and dialogue with the ELCA's teaching theologians. The series is edited by Philip D.W. Krey, president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, on behalf of the presidents of the eight ELCA
Can the church be multicultural, or is that just another "Western," Northern Hemisphere thing?
For too long, Lutheran traditions stemming from northern Europe and nurtured in North America have presented themselves as somehow universal. They have offered their forms and questions, both ritual and theological, to the global church as authoritative. How myopic is that? Even within North American Lutheranism, ethnic loyalties and ethnically embodied confessions curiously and surprisingly still rule both hearts and minds.
The many ethnic origins of Lutheranism in North America, though diluted today, still exert considerable spiritual and theological control — sometimes conscious but mostly unconscious — over both worship and theology in parishes, at seminaries and in churchwide discussions. Though there is an interest in the "global church" and things global (especially, for example, music), we fail to notice our deep ethnic expressions and biases in worship and theology.
The first step toward a multicultural expression in worship and, therefore, within communities of faith begins with a consciousness-raising of these often-unnamed ethnic biases. The Lutheran confessional writings give us a means to engage that work. Contextual in origin, the confessions surprisingly propose an agenda for worship that is ecumenical, multicultural and even charismatic.
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