Monday, September 14, 2015

No Longer Alone: Perspective of a Confessional Lutheran Woman

Yesterday, we blogged about the opening of Faith Lutheran Church – a new, independant Lutheran congregation in the Portland, Oregon, area, formed by some 17 Lutherans who were recently compelled to leave WELS for a variety of reasons, and have now chosen to be served by pastors of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA). We also mentioned that these Lutherans now also feel compelled to provide a public explanation for their departure from the WELS. Today’s post is the first such explanation.

No Longer Alone
Perspective of a Confessional Lutheran Woman

I felt so alone. Not from God. God had adopted me into His family at my baptism when I was only days old. My faith had been nourished and strengthened regularly with His Word and the Sacrament of Jesus’ body and blood. I knew God would never leave me nor forsake me. But I missed the fellowship of like-minded believers.

God’s House no longer felt like a sanctuary. It had the look and feel of an auditorium, the altar area dominated by a large screen. A steady stream of “announcements” and “not-so-hushed” conversations over cups of gourmet coffee made it difficult to prepare my heart for worship.

The historic liturgy had been deemed old fashioned. The use of hymnals was considered out of date. Music and text changed weekly, printed in “service folders” of greater and greater length.

It seemed that we had grown uncomfortable with God’s teaching on Holy Communion. So afraid to offend, we chose to forego Holy Communion on Easter Sunday out of fear that the Bible’s teaching of close/d communion would make us “look bad” to visitors.

Mid-week Bible studies became less frequent, then absent all together.

Vacation BIBLE School was marginalized with talk of replacing it with a soccer camp because “that’s what a lot of other churches do.” “The B-I-B-L-E” was replaced with songs about pinching cheeks and other things WE do.

A special “Mafia Night” activity was held for our youth on the night before Easter.

Sunday School was “updated,” and no longer focused on a Bible lesson and the memorization of Scripture. There was no offering basket with which to teach about stewardship.

Some things were worse.

Teaching justification by faith as “just as if I’d never done it” was replaced with the child-friendly terms of “objective justification” and “subjective justification.” If I finally understand it, “objective justification” means that everyone is declared “not guilty” regardless of faith, and “subjective justification” means that I believe I am part of everyone. Of course we need a special term to say that “I” am part of “everyone.” And never mind that this doesn’t fit with Scripture, “IT’S OUR SPECIAL MESSAGE THAT NO ONE ELSE HAS!!”

A special Reformation Sunday School lesson includes the text, “God’s Word says that all people are saved.” Where does the Bible say that?

A gender-neutral translation of the Bible is promoted for use in our churches because “no translation is perfect.” Yes, but some are less perfect than others.

I felt so alone. But I wasn’t silent. With each change, God provided the courage to express my concern to pastors, elders, and presidents of two congregations over the past 15 years. I wish I could say that I received assurance that my concerns were valid. I wish I could say that I was commended for “searching the Scriptures” for God’s will in my life. Instead, I was characterized as old fashioned, too critical, or as one simply refusing to appreciate our “Christian freedom.” The decisions had been made, and there was no turning back.

I felt so alone.

It wasn’t the first time. I had journeyed through the synods, each time moving toward one that was smaller, and in my viewpoint, more consistent in practice with what God’s Word taught. But I was at the end of the alphabet; seemingly, the end of the road. Where else was there? What was I supposed to do?

There are faithful Lutheran pastors who provide sermons and even conduct services online. But I wanted to meet together with like-minded believers. I wanted my children to keep the habit of attending church every Sunday.

God is so faithful.

Sometimes, when your faith is challenged, your eyes are opened to things you would not have otherwise seen. Through some of the issues mentioned above, I became aware of others in my congregation who felt the same. We connected with a group of confessional Lutherans who had traveled the same path prior to our experiences. They reached out with love, encouragement, support, and especially the promises of God’s Word as we organized as an independent Lutheran congregation. Pastors of the group made commitments to fly in for weekends of Bible study, instruction, visitations, and services.

God’s goodness and faithfulness is overwhelming. Thank you, God, for Your infinite grace, and thank You for the pastors and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America (ELDoNA).
    The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23 (NKJV)


Unknown said...

Like the Bereans, we need to search the Scriptures daily, and take a stand when necessary!

Chuck Braun said...

While I understand the difference between universal objective and personal, subjective justification, this by no means says that "all are saved". Sadly, many are not saved.

In my LCMS church, we do also omit Holy Communion on Christmas Eve, but celebrate it on Christmas Day. If the Roman Catholic Church can announce verbally that Communion is open only to Roman Catholics, why can a confessional Lutheran church not take the time to kindly ask all visitors of a different Christian confession to come forward for a blessing? Any good Southern Baptist or Bible-believing Presbyterian would not commune in a Lutheran church. Even as an LCMS member, I would not seek Communion in a WELS church. Or ELCA.

It saddens me to see the WELS implying universal salvation. That's one the reasons I left the ELCA, besides their pro-gay sanctioning of sin. It saddens me that the WELS has adopted Contemporary worship along with LCMS. So here we have a church, the WELS, where not only is universalism implied, but whose members can not even pray with other Christians.

I will keep praying for all the Lutheran churches who accept the Bible as God's inerrant Word. Where they are wrong, may the Holy Spirit lead them back to the truth. This prayer is for all my dear brothers and sisters in Christ in LCMS, WELS/ELS, ELDoNA and even AFLC.

Dear sister in Christ, I understand how it is hard to leave a church. But correct doctrine and practice matter. And seriously, soccer camp instead of VBS? VBS is one activity that can help share the Gospel with kids of any background or denomination? I know God will elect whom He chooses, but who are we to stand in His way? God's blessings to you...

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