Monday, November 22, 2010

Sounding a clear voice

This is WELS President Mark Schroeder's message to the synod in the November 2010 issue of the Forward in Christ - A Lutheran Voice magazine. Once again, he knocks it out of the park and earns for himself the honorary title of Intrepid Lutheran. We give thanks to God for President Schroeder's leadership during this Thanksgiving week.

The history of the Lutheran church in America is long and tangled. Starting before the American Revolution, Lutheran immigrants brought their faith to these shores and sought out other Lutherans to form synods and associations of pastors and congregations. From the start, however, there was never a single Lutheran church body in America. Germans, Swedes, and Norwegians sought out others who shared their language or place of origin in Europe. Other groupings were shaped by the theology and practices they brought with them. There were Lutheran pietists, Old Lutherans, True Lutherans, and Lutherans who had kept the name but little else. As the years passed, there were mergers and splits, fellowship relationships declared and terminated.

A diagram illustrating the history of the various Lutheran bodies in the United States over the years contains dozens of alphabet-soup names, merging and diverging lines, and numerous explanatory footnotes. It nearly makes your head spin just looking at it.

Last August, a new Lutheran church body was added to the list. Responding to the decision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to permit practicing homosexuals to serve as pastors, a significant number of ELCA congregations voted to leave their church body and establish a new Lutheran denomination called the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The NALC views itself as being in the "center" of American Lutheranism. It retains, however, most of the beliefs and practices of the ELCA, except for ordaining homosexual pastors.

On another front, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) elected a new synod president last July. Many pastors and laypeople in the Missouri Synod were increasingly concerned about the direction of their synod and were convinced that new leadership was needed. President Matthew Harrison is known for his commitment to the Lutheran Confessions and for his desire to unify the LCMS on the basis of the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

These major changes and events in American Lutheranism present an interesting challenge and opportunity for WELS. Now, perhaps more than ever, it is vital for our synod to clearly articulate our identity as a confessional Lutheran church body. We need to speak with a scriptural voice—one that bases its teachings on the clear Word of God, proclaims faithfully both law and gospel, and relies firmly in the means of grace for results. We need to speak with a distinctly Lutheran voice, a voice that cannot be mistaken for a watered-down, generic, evangelical Christianity that emphasizes sanctification over justification, favors praise over law-gospel proclamation, and responds to the felt needs of the consumer culture rather than the desperate spiritual needs of sinful people. We need to speak with a united voice, demonstrating that we are committed to walking together in both doctrine and practice. We need to speak with a historic voice, connecting our synod's teachings and practices with the clear statements of the Lutheran reformers and with the Christian church extending back to the apostles. [emphasis added]

We do not know what the future holds for the Lutheran synods in America. We do know this: As other Lutheran bodies wrestle with important issues, now is not the time for WELS to hide in a corner. Rather, now is the time for us to be ready to give an answer to those who ask. Now is the time for us to pray that the Lord of the church will move faithful Lutherans everywhere to stand together, as Luther did, on the clear Word of the Scriptures and on nothing else.

1 comment:

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

"We need to speak with a historic voice, connecting our synod's teachings and practices with the clear statements of the Lutheran reformers and with the Christian church extending back to the apostles."

This being of great significance, I believe.

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