Saturday, January 2, 2016

What to celebrate. . .

In case you missed it, the ELCA is celebrating the 45th anniversary of the ordination of women, beginning with the ordination of Elizabeth Platz on November 22, 1970, then in the Lutheran Church in America, one of the predecessor bodies of the ELCA.  It was a predictable article lauding the ground breaking act, heralding the many accomplishments of women clergy, and yet lamenting that the full integration of women has yet to be enjoyed in the ELCA (never mind that their presiding bishop is a woman!).  You can read it all if you want to. . .

But hidden in the story was this:  the 3.7 million-member church. . . There is it in black and white and official, right from the denomination itself.  Just 3.7M members still counted as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America!  So why am I, a member of a church body with 2.3M members fixating upon this statistic?  When this church body began with great fanfare, it boasted 5.3M members.  Now, 27 years later, they have bleed off a third of their membership.  Who even knows what else hides behind this current statistic of 3.7M baptized members.  The ELCA has nearly dropped a church body almost the size of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.  Now, I am not suggesting that the picture of Lutheranism in other jurisdictions of all that much rosier but in the case of the ELCA perhaps half of this number came in the past several years following the 2009 CWA decision to mainstream GLBT folks into all positions of membership, leadership, and clergy.  Literally two church bodies have been born of this split (the North American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ).  This from what was supposed to end Lutheran divisions and become the blueprint of unity to thrust the churches forward.

My point is not to pile on the ELCA and its sad story.  My point is that a church body thrives only when its people are fully united in doctrine and practice and not through much celebrated diversity.  Reconciled diversity lasts only as long as the other options are less appealing that staying where you do not feel at home.  At some point the ELCA was abound to divide.  Compromises that were fashioned together to glue an ALC, LCA, and AELC together could not weather the major storms of mission, ministry ecumenical agendas, and social justice positions that left the past behind in the dust of a church body scrambling to find a new identity.

The warning is clear -- commonly agreed upon and confessed doctrine and uniformity of practice do not prevent unity but make unity possible and even strong.  We hear over and over again that we don't need doctrine and practice police enforcing rules upon unwilling congregations.  We all agree on this.  But what we do need are pastors and parishes vigorously teaching and confessing the common faith and willing to flaunt the direction of the world to practice this unity.  We have nothing to fear from our Lutheran confessional identity and our willingness to practice in conformity with that confessional identity.  Being the Lutherans we claim to be is our best and biggest hope for the future. Authentic to the Scriptures and to our Confessions, we know both the questions and the answers that the world is yearning to know.  This is the robust Lutheranism which, when it has practiced, has thrived and can still be our best hope for the future, for our children, and for our grandchildren.

We are surrounded by the examples of once vibrant church bodies who have forgotten who they were and now have nothing left to celebrate but a diversity that does not even honestly reflect the statistics of who they are now -- church bodies who once produced faithful confessors and vibrant preaching now are left to mirror the stale old politically correct social advocacy of the liberal left.  We will all end up there unless we rediscover our confessional heritage and embrace this with the confidence the world longs to hear and know.  The sad truth is that Lutheranism was much more united in our divisions of the 1950s than the pale imitation of unity that passes for the wilting flower of a 27 year old merger and an LCMS that sometimes seems unsure what kind of Lutheran it wants to be.

Could it that the largest Lutheran Church in the United States is the U2BLs --  those who used to be Lutherans and fell away? Think about it...


David Gray said...

The way Lutherans tend to count membership will produce larger numbers than many of their baptistic brethren. People who haven't been regular attenders of worship for years are kept on the membership rolls.

Carl Vehse said...

So why am I, a member of a church body with 2.3M members fixating upon this statistic?

According to the latest (2014) numbers, there are 2,097,258 members of LCMS congregations. Trends suggest that LCMS congregations will be under 2 million members by 2017.

Carl Vehse said...

According to a March 3, 2015, Reporter article about a Purple Palace presentation by Dr. Ryan MacPherson, a professor at Bethany College, Mankato, Minn., and president of “Into Your Hands” consulting:

Two major factors account for most of the downward trend in LCMS membership, according to MacPherson’s study. First, the birth rate has been declining for over 50 years for white-Anglo Americans of Northern European descent — a major Synod demographic. His study revealed that rising rates of divorce and non-marital cohabitation among younger people have exacerbated this challenge the Synod now faces.

Second, over the past 20 years, the retention rate of baptized infants as they grow up toward youth confirmation age also has declined.

"Only about half of the children baptized a decade-and-a-half ago were present for confirmation in the past few years,” noted MacPherson.

Although a published reference to the presentation has not been found, a similar 2010 publication, "Becoming Less Fruitful: A Demographic History of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1928-2008," does include some information about the LCMS.

For example, on p. 7, Chart C (Baptized, Pre-Confirmed Membership as a Percentage of Total Membership) shows the ELS, LCMS, and WELS, have similar (declining) trends in the percentage of pre-confirmed membership, down to 20-25% in the first decade of the 21st century.

As Rev. H.C. Curtis noted in an April 2006, letter to the Reporter:

"In short, our church body has been complicit in its own demise by not emphasizing God’s plan for procreation in marriage. We are contracepting ourselves out of business. All the evangelism programs in the world can’t make up for that. Ask the Shakers if you don’t believe me."

Yet despite even President Harrison admitting: "Membership in the Synod continues to decline apace owing to tremendous backdoor losses, a declining birthrate," another Reporter article in December stated:

Harrison mentioned several new LCMS programs such as "re:Vitality" and "Every One His Witness" as "holding great potential for helping reverse that membership trend."

There has been no mention in LCMS publications of a third factor in declining LCMS membership: In order to combat the increasing GOP-dominance in Presidential elections, the 1965 Immigration Act, was developed and pushed by Demonicrats like Bobby and Teddy Kennedy, and signed by LBJ. This law dramatically reduced the immigration from then-traditional large sources of immigrants--England, Ireland, Holland, Germany, etc.--and replaced them with vast numbers of Third (or Fourth) Worlders. These (legal and illegal) immigrants, largely non or anti-Christian, eventually vote around 80% for Dems, and have contributed to balkanization, rather than a melting pot, in the United States.

Even today with the Traitorobama-and-LIaRS-promoted invasion of the U.S. by Mid-East, ISIS-infiltrated "refugees," Christians among those Mid-East refugees are being almost entirely excluded.

Anonymous said...

Can you say xenophobia?

Even if the US opened up immigration to more N. Europeans - and why would many even want to move here as they have better health care and education in Europe than here, not to mention the risk of being killed by guns - very few, if any would be joining the LCMS. People who emigrate tend to be young and the only people going to church regularly in traditionally Lutheran countries like Germany and Scandinavia are elderly people.

Please return to your Fox News viewing now.