It Was Only a Matter of Time
By CJ Conner, published: March 23, 2011, Posted at http://revcjconner.com/?p=511
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lies in utter disarray. With a budget nearly half that of twenty years ago, and hundreds of it’s largest churches fleeing for Christian Freedom, some Bishops and Synods have seen their membership drop by half or more.
Meanwhile, denominations like Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and North American Lutheran Church (which recently became endowed to the tune of about 2 million dollars), have become the crucibles for the deconstruction of one of the worst church merger stories in American history.
The ELCA was formed primarily by the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America, or ALC and LCA respectively. The ALC brought with it all the money to the table- hundreds of millions of dollars- while the broke poor LCA brought all the grand ideas for a brave New Church of the 21st century. Many congregations chose not to join the new Lutheran merger, and pastors today, in hindsight, recognize that the balance of power in the body politik as well as the retreat from historic Christian teaching and doctrine, has left the ELCA in this peculiar position: Reverse engeneering of a merger that was once hailed the world over as one of the greatest ecumenical moments in Lutheran history.
I’ve played some small roll myself over the last ten years in seeing these days to fruition, not because of any disdain for church mergers and diverse opinion, but rather for the sake of the Freedom of the Christian that Luther talks about: "A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none, a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every one."
Through Christ’s death on the cross, and through Christ alone, we are free and subject to none. Christian identity can’t be found in the historic episcopacy, social statements, or a constitutional denomination. We find it only in the salvation won for us by Jesus Christ, not through works of social justice, and are pointed to Christ only through God’s Holy Word, the Bible- not through Bishops and not through the votes of the constitutional conventions of man where the Holy Spirit may or may not be moving.
I say all this only to highlight why denominations like the ELCA are in great tumult- "The Watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out." – John 10:3
Congregations are leaving the ELCA because they hear the voice of Christ. He calls his own sheep by name, and leads them out.
It took a long time before so many sheep heard the faint voice, yet growing ever-stronger, calling them out to lives of faith in the midst of a denomination that has once upon a time controlled all of the information, all of the literature, and all of the preparation of pastors and teachers. By the Grace of God, Christ continued to call. By the Grace of God, Good Lutherans have discovered the Bishops and professors and pastors who have been wolves in sheeps’ clothing, carving out paths that lead away from the Good Shepherd. By the grace of God, faithful Lutherans are reclaiming in record number their identity of Christians- Salvation is found in scripture alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, and the cross alone- all Glory be to God.
So for me, finally, on to other things as I see God’s work for His lutheran church in this country made manifest before my very eyes- as many many others, younger and with more energy than I or those who first sounded the clarion calls nearly twenty years ago- take their places upon the walls of God’s Kingdom, looking out into the vast distance as hundreds of thousands of God’s people here in America hear the Good Shepherd’s voice, and follow him.
He calls for me too- to return from the spiritual battlefields and sit once again at his feet. I hear his voice, and I follow- thankful to the hundreds of thousands who have used my material, visited my websites, and have put on the whole armor of God themselves.
To God be the Glory!