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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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It's about Scripture

Reform-minded groups argue authority

In the ELCA, the face of organized disagreement with denominational policies and perceptions of the church includes groups that describe themselves and their congregations as holding to the authority of Scripture and, well ... those that say the same but from the opposite end of the theological spectrum.

Leaders of such movements as the WordAlone Network and Lutherans Concerned/North America describe themselves as agreeing with Martin Luther that Scripture is the cradle that holds the Christ child. Yet while the former wants the ELCA to hold to tradition, the latter calls for change. In both groups some stay and some leave the ELCA, whether by choice or a decision of the larger church body. Who are these groups? Why do some stay and some leave?

Adrian Sanchez<BR><BR>Tim White (left),
Tim White (left), a pastor of Trinity Lutheran, Columbus, Neb., said the congregation left the ELCA because of a variety of concerns, not “any one issue.” White is pictured here with (front row, left) Kay Ferris, Pastor Doug Zurek, Sue Zurek; (back row, left) Cindy White, Jennifer Uhlig and Mike Drinnin. All are staff except Drinnin, who was council president at the time of the vote.
In 2005, Trinity Lutheran Church, Columbus, Neb., took two separate votes and consulted the Nebraska Synod bishop before leaving the ELCA. Since then, the 2,000-member congregation hasn’t looked back, two of its leaders say. A small group of members who wanted to stay in the ELCA formed Hope Lutheran Church, a new mission in Columbus. (Their story is coming in August.)

Trinity had already joined Lutheran Congregations in Mission in Christ in 2002. Formed by leaders of the church reform movement WordAlone Network, LCMC provides an alternative church body for some congregations unhappy with the ELCA.

Of the 20 congregations with 14,116 members who withdrew from the ELCA in 2005, 11 are affiliated with LCMC, said ELCA Secretary Lowell Almen. Other congregations joined the Association of Free Lutheran Churches, Fellowship of Confessing Lutheran Churches, American Association of Lutheran Churches and Alliance of Renewal Churches.

“For a period of years, our leadership was aware of an undercurrent of controversial issues within the ELCA,” said Tim White, a pastor of Trinity who also left the ELCA clergy roster. He attributed the departure to several issues, including: Called to Common Mission, the full communion agreement between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church; the sexuality studies; and the ELCA’s advocacy work.

White called CCM “a waste of the church’s time ... not critical to church unity,” and dismissed the bylaw that allows some exceptions to the historic episcopate as “a Band-Aid.” (The historic episcopate is a succession of bishops as a sign of unity back to the earliest days of the Christian church.)


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