Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 - a 25th Anniversary

Photo from the January The Lutheran magazine.
In 1987 the leaders of the AELC, ALC, LCA came together and poured from three different cruets into one chalice to give visual weight to the constitution convention for the new Lutheran Church, April 30-May 3, in Columbus, Ohio.  Bishops David Preus, Will Herzfeld, and James Crumley represented the hope invested in the Lutheran union that had evaded Lutheranism in America for so long.  In the end, it proved that this hope was fractured more than by the absence of Missouri.  The unity that was celebrated was a unity in which differences were papered over, serious questions left unresolved, and flawed structures and operating procedures would direct this body away from its confessional moorings and toward its own schism and splintering.  Over its lifespan, this new Lutheran body dropped about 20% of its membership, never lived up to the projections of work or influence, and left behind many of those who had longed and prayed for the day when Lutheran union was not a hope but a reality.

I say this with no pride or arrogance but with a great deal of regret and sadness.  The Lord deserved better and still does -- from those who came together for form the ELCA and from Missouri.  The hopes and dreams of many in Missouri sought the day when what was begun in 1987 might finally include the LCMS and, perhaps, other Lutheran groups.  Instead, ELCA and Missouri are farther than ever from each other -- in identity, confession, and practice.  No one today sees much in the future for Lutheran unity or union.  The ELCA has sliced off the LCMC and the NALC and not a few independent Lutheran congregations and the loss continues, though slower than before.  Missouri has shed its own 10% and struggles with the mistrust and a doctrinal diversity that were only hinted at when it suffered its own schism in the 1970s.

John Tietjen wrote "Which Way to Lutheran Unity?" and the question seems even more germane now than when this book was first written in the 1960s.  Which way, indeed?  Except the unity of this question is now the unity within the ELCA and within Missouri -- not the unity or union between the bodies.  Those were heady days for some and days filled with angst for others.  Who among those looking ahead could have foreseen the troubles and trials Lutheranism has faced since 1987?  Personally, I believe that Missouri is in the best position but the struggles ahead of us to resolve our own internal problems may end up consuming us and our leaders without resolution in sight.  It is time to repent, as Harrison often says, and to work for positive resolution of the things that ail us or we will be looking back to 2012 with even more regret and sorrow over the undoing of those who claim to be heirs of the Great Reformation and who insist the legacy of Luther is theirs....


Anonymous said...

LCMS Presidential Elections:
In 1969, Preus won by 5 votes.
In 1992, Barry won by 12 votes.
In 200l, Kieschnick won by 18 votes.

These 3 elections were taken as a
mandate by the winners to impose their brand of politics on the Synod.
In each case it soon backfired. For
the past 40+ years Conservatives and
Moderates have fought, while the
Synod declined. Sadly, Synod is the
loser in this atmosphere.

Paul said...

Your wonder post begs the question, how can two walk together, unless they agree? I fear that we worship differently because we believe differently, hence agreement no longer exists. Time to move one, but how?