Friday, August 27, 2010

Why did I go to the NALC convention?

Why is Kline here?
Some of my friends in LCMC may wonder, as did a couple of my LCMC friends here at the NALC convention (who were here as official "visitors"), why I came to this event.

I suppose the answer has different parts.

1. I came to the NALC Constituting Convention because I wanted to see history in the making. It isn't every day that a new denomination is born. Let alone, one that will be as significant in North American Lutheranism as I believe this one will be. It's one of those quirky things about me, I like history. And I'm interested in the history of the church in America. This is it. I think it's an amazingly significant event because I believe this could well become the second or third largest Lutheran body in the U.S. It was fun to be able to "report out" about it's birth.

2. We're all in this together. LCMC and NALC our basically sisters and we're going to go through life together. I hope we'll be friends always as well as sister churches. I imagine that we'll need each other, that we'll support each other, that we'll do mission work together, that, as pastors, we'll be able to go back and forth across denominational (or associational) lines. It's nice to know that there are others out there who think like we do about Scripture and mission, even if we may worship differently or have different desires for how structured our hierarchies are.

3. I'm genuinely curious. All through seminary there was a debate raging about whether or not congregations who used liturgy would be able to do outreach. Well, now we'll see. One of the key tenants of NALC is that it is "traditionally grounded." That means a lot, but one of the things it means is that they will follow the traditional Lutheran liturgy. Will contemporary people who didn't grow up Lutheran respond? We'll see. Let's be clear: I don't have a dog in this hunt. I'm making no value judgements here at all. I'm simply curious. I've got opinions, but they are simply that: opinions. Now we'll see if traditional Lutheran churches can be about mission. We'll see because if they aren't, they'll die and the NALC will be one short lived denomination. So here we go. I'm excited. And so is the NALC.

Here's what I really think:

-NALC is a great church for those who love Jesus, want to make disciples, love vestments, liturgy and tradition.
-LCMC is a great church for those who love Jesus, want to make disciples, like to wear shorts and sandals to church and sing Jesus songs that sound like they could be on Acoustic Pie.
-NALC is a great church for those who want a higher authority to tell them what resources are good, what pastors are approved, and how education should be done.
-LCMC is a great church for those who prefer to find their own resources, their own pastors, and make their own decisions about what Christian education looks like.
-If you like westerns: if you relate best to the scouts, who are out there in Indian territory, speaking the language and knowing the terrain, LCMC is you. If you relate best to the calvary, traveling in formation with nice uniforms and having a good sense of order, NALC is you. If you relate best to the politician back in Washington that wants the land acquired no matter what the cost, the ELCA is just right for you. If you're the heroine in love with all three, well, you might need therapy. :) Sooner or later you'll have to make a choice.
-If you went to Luther Seminary or are familiar with their faculty, you'll like NALC if you think Jim Nestingen is the bee's knees and if you think Skip Sundberg walks no water, you'll be very comfortable in LCMC.

Things that struck me were:
-We sang a lot of hymns that I simply didn't know. If you like the LBW, NALC is for you.
-There were a lot, a lot, of pastors in clergy shirts. Like maybe at least 50% of the pastors. LCMC, maybe 5%.
-NALC knows they have a hard row to hoe. They know it will be hard to create mission mindedness in congregations. And by this I mean, the genuine desire for mission that transcends the desire to simply survive as a congregation.
-Their structure is not crushing, like the ELCA's, but it will be heavy. And it will be a challenge and take many, many years to sort out how everything works. My fear is that congregations will continue to wait upon the structure before going out and doing mission. "Just do it." But this will be very hard for congregations who may not be used to acting independently.
-LCMC has 400-500 churches (look it up!) and has, I believe, 2 full time and maybe 2 part time employees, and no property. It is nimble and lean. NALC wants a rented office, and about 5 or 6 (if I'm counting right) full time staff besides the bishop. They have 18 churches today, hope to have 200 by the end of 2011. Neither nimble nor quick. All the benevolence they want churches to give will have to support their budget first.
-A bit concerned about talk within the NALC about the need for "teaching statements" about such things as marriage and women's ordination. Isn't what got us into this mess?
-NALC will apply for membership in the Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Relief. Why? I know it's to make inter-Lutheran connections, but why can't we just do that anyway?
-NALC will pursue relations with North American Anglicans as well as deeper relations with LCMC.
-Finally, they will clarify what it means to have altar and pulpit fellowship with other denominations.

So there you have my report. LCMC is seeking something new, NALC, while moving in a new direction (intentional mission) is using many old and familiar means.

God bless you. Thanks for reading. PJ

Live from the NALC Convening Convention

The church's server won't let me go to my blog to post so I've relocated over lunch to send this out...

Remarks of Pastor Larry Lindstrom, LCMC Board Chairman

We know what it's like to be accused of tearing the church apart.
We need people who are willing to stand up and be counted for Scripture and the gospel. We've been where you are - we were here first. :) We hope to share some things, experiences with you, lessons learned, etc. Let's share our experiences together.

Leadership of LCMC and NALC have already met together. First meeting was in January in TC.

Let's pray together and for each other as siblings who love each other.

For congregations that want to make a stand, there are now 2 very good options.

Sees congregations joining both LCMC and NALC.

Cooperative ventures are ahead.

Both bodies have creative DNA to make the road ahead very exciting.

Elections Report
772 cast for CORE steering committee
Top 4, 2 year term; next 4 to 1 year term. Minutes will be published.
Also CORE newsletter.

Unanimous ballot for officers: passed. declared elected.
Bishop Paull Spring elected bishop
Exec Counsel (see below)
Court of Ajudication (see below)

Brief remarks by Pastor Paul Ulring (who now replaces Mark Chavez as Moderator of CORE.)

Roy Harrisville, Jr., acknowledged for early leadership in Solid Rock.

Most of the people we're familiar with are stepping back. New leadership.

Remarks by Bishop Paull Spring - "Why would I do this? Because I'm committed to what we're after."
The office of the NALC is the spare bedroom at the home of Bishop Paul Spring.

There is a certain sense of remorse that we all share, but a sense of hope and optimism and excitement.

Elected as Lutheran CORE Moderator: Pastor Paul T. Ulring
Secretary: Pastor W. Stevens Shipman
Treasurer: Ralph Wittenburg
Steering Committee: Challa G. Baro, Pastor Eddy Perez, Pastor Karl Andrew Johnsen, Captain Raymond J. Brown, for 2 year terms; John Pleuss, Lynn Kickingbird, Pastor Tom Brandt, Mathison for 1 year term.

NALC Leadership
Bishop, Bishop Paull Spring
Executive Counsel: (Lay) James Hansen, Carol Lattier, Ryan M. Schwartz, Kay Johnson Weaver; (clergy) Pastor Donald Allman, Pastor N. Amanda Grimmer, Pastor Victor Langford III, Pastor Jim Lehmann.

NALC Court of Adjudication
Richard F. Currey
Jon E. Evans
James Gale
Rev. Dr. Jeffray Greene
Pastor Ralph Kempski
Carolyn Nestingen
Rev. Dr. Ronald Warren went live yesterday

Ministry Policies Working Group Report by Bishop Paull Spring

There are policies established for approving seminarians, rostering clergy, call process and mobility.
There are policies yet to be developed that included the ministry of lay people, deacons/deaconesses, etc.

Constitution of the NALC.
Includes a couple interesting items:
a.) apportionment. All churches should, in theory, shoulder an equal share of the national church budget. Does this mean there will be a required percentage paid to the national body? This is unclear at this time.

b. membership in secret societies prohibited. This was surprisingly a lively debate. The constitution prohibits membership. A movement to amend this part was suggested.

In support of amending above - the LCA was anti- masonic, LCMS anti-masonic; could be used against STS or other church societies in the future.
Could be used as a witch hunt in the future. The Holy Spirit will protect us.

In support of keeping the wording: Spiritual warfare - spirits let into a church body - protective to church body
In essence it's to prevent people from keeping secrets that would destroy the church.

Amendment was defeated soundly.

One speaker, in an emotional speech, said she could not support the new constitution . The ELCA had committed a schismatic act in Minneapolis last August. And you can't fight a schismatic act with a schismatic act. She asked that we pray for us who are called to stay and be a faithful remnant.

Another speaker pointed out that the constitution says the bishop is in charge of ecumenical conversations. With the future surely involving working together with other Lutheran groups, this will occupy an ever increasing amount of time. In an amendment referred to the executive council, it was suggested that former bishops in the NALC should become a counsel of bishops (for life) and handle such things for the "presiding" bishop. Referred to executive council.

Point of interest: all future changes to constitution must be approved not only by a vote of a convention, but also by a majority vote of individual congregations. This is similar to LCMC's procedure and guarantees that there will be no repeat of the ELCA's actions in August 2009. What generated a great deal of conversation, however, was a clause that states that after 12 months of inactivity, a congregation's vote is considered to be in favor. In other words, if the congregation doesn't vote, in a year, they are listed as having automatically voted in favor of the resolution. There was much talk about how, after so many congregations had "no idea" about what the ELCA was doing, this could be good practice. So, there are things still to be ironed out.

Several other items that popped up and were referred to the Executive Council for consideration:
can a pastor join NALC without a congregation? In other words, if the pastor wants to leave the ELCA but the congregation is too deeply divided, can the pastor join NALC and stay at the ELCA congregation? (It was brought to everyone's attention that the ELCA probably wouldn't stand for this anyway).
can an individual person join NALC? For instance, if you belong to an ELCA congregation that stays, can you yourself join NALC?
Should the "other" Lutheran Confessional writings be given the same weight in the constitution as Augsburg?

The session ended with the passing of the provisional constitution. We sang the doxology and prayed for guidance. A new denomination is born.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Live from the North American Lutheran Church Constituting Convention Part III

Greetings from Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, President Emeritus, Pastor Francis Stephanos

Pastor Stephans reaffirmed his church's stand on Biblical marriage; and went on to reject the stand of ELCA, ELCIC (Canada) and Church of Sweden on gay marriage and non celibate gay clergy.

He pulled no punches and he urged us not to ever yield to the court of public opinion. "It's a sin. Do not be in fear; do not be intimated by name callers, majority voters. Let us only fear the Lord."

My favorite quote: "We understand that no one can inherit the kingdom of God by majority vote."

"All church leaders must come clean on these issues so that people may learn and be taught the truth."

The light shines boldly and exposes the darkness for what it is.

Christians denounce sin, follow Jesus, and make disciples.

The true church is called to teach the true scriptures. As a guide for all people to see and follow.

The church is a beacon of truth in a dark world. If the church isn't a beacon, it has no good news for those who are suffering from the consequences of sin.

The job of leaders of the church is to love, fear, and obey the Lord.

He lovingly but firmly put us in our place. Responding to an article he read by a professor of theology who commented that the church in the south (the third world, basically) had to retrain it's leaders to be truly inclusive. He responded - "the church in the South is growing - yours is dying. You are losing 2.7 million members a year, 3-4,000 churches a year are closing... the South, he said, has the word of God and the Holy Spirit...

As he finished, the congregation rose and gave him a standing ovation.
Standing Ovation!!!!!

Pastor Ken Kimball, Mission and Benevolence Working Group

It is the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion. You either obey Jesus or you don't.

When the church sits back and doesn't take the mission to the world, God will do something, including afflicting the church so that the seeds will be planted. See Acts 8.

Making disciples is:
a.) internal, discipling, spiritual growth
b.) External outreach
If the external isn't happening, we believe, neither is the internal.
In addition to fidelity to orthodox Christian/Lutheran teaching, a competence in fulfilling the Great Commission must be demonstrated by those desiring to become pastors.

NALC hopes to start a network to support both Global and Continental missions.

Part of this network is a virtual community for the exchange of ideas; a forum to share ideas, frustrations, raise the learning curve (we are all going to go through an enormous learning curve in the next few years). Included in this virtual idea is a website, managed, with a list of mission opportunities for congregations looking for mission partners (vetted through CORE and NALC).

There will be a new emphasis on challenging congregations to give... The Great Commission Give Away it's called. It's time to turn away from anger at ELCA, and get generous. This is a spiritual necessity. Do not forget that what God has given us is His not our own. It is believed that this will strengthen the mission of the whole church. Also help congregations to set an example for their own members and to be connected to the Great Commission. This is admittedly going back to the way we did things 50 years ago. Go back to the older model. Let the congregation decide, not the national headquarters. Its about learning that we are the church together.

Standing Ovation!!!!!!

Pastor Mark Braaten
Congregational Life Working Group

Why do mountain climbers tie themselves together? So that the same ones will go home. Just so, we bind ourselves together to do the work of the church.

There is a list of resources, approved by CORE and NALC. How do we root this adventure of forming the NALC in discipleship? You give congregations a good resource list. Also comes out of loss of confidence in ELCA resources.

Seven regional events around the country are being planned to focus on mission and ministry. They will be using Power Surge acronym from Michael Foss. We want to focus on discipleship, because that will always lead to mission and ministry.
Events focus on networking (local). We hope to clearly and intentional say that we are about Mt 28 and Acts 2. We are going to lift up the name of Jesus Christ in every way we possibly can.

Des Moines is one of the seven sites identified. (Foss's church?)

Some of the old ways we've done things won't be the same any more.
But we will find joy and wonder in the mission of making disciples.

Standing ovation!!!!

Live From the NALC Constituting Convention Part II

Presentation by Ryan Schwartz

The future is partnerships of churches that have a:

Shared confession of faith
Shared understanding of Scripture
Shared ministry priorities
But not necessarily a shared denomination.

Further, current reconfiguration currently sees large numbers of traditional, isolated Lutherans now without congregations or feeling isolated within their congregations(Situation created by 2/3rds vote requirements, pastors who are overwhelmingly in favor of ELCA policies, etc.)
The future will see Lutheran congregational planting to meet these needs at a rate unseen for decades.

Reconfiguration is not limited to ELCA break-up and what NALC is doing, rather, there are 3 million other confessional Lutherans in America. So there are new discussions developing across Lutheran denominational lines, headed up frequently by LCMS.

The Future of Lutheran CORE
CORE will be a "Community" (members drawn from multiple church bodies, associations, organizations) Will provide fellowship for those who remain in ELCA and a way for them to network with others now outside the ELCA.

The NALC will be:
christ centered
mission driven
traditionally grounded
congregationally focused

Me: does this represent an attempt to fix an institution or a future oriented new way of doing things?

Mark Chavez comments:
NALC and CORE will work together, forming a new denomination but at the same time keeping ties with those who are not or cannot leave to form the new NALC. Lutheran CORE is working intentionally working to keep communication with other faithful, confessing Lutherans.

Congregations in NALC are asked to have a minimum of:
one direct relationship with one missionary or agency
one direct relationship with at least one mission congregation in NA

For work on theological education a joint commission is forming. We all need to learn from the best theologians in NA, both clergy and lay.

NALC/CORE will be servants to congregations. Make sure that congregations are connected to all the best publishing houses, resources, missionaries, mission agencies, etc.

NALC National Youth Gathering: Impact. next summer.

How is Lutheran CORE going to work inside and outside the ELCA?
Why would you have anything to do with the ELCA?

We are called to care for every member of the body Christ. This is our way of doing that. We are not abandoning the members who are left behind.

We cannot carve out a place where we are immune from all the destructive influences that are at work in the ELCA or other Protestant bodies. We are sinners and we are going to make our share of mistakes. We have to be realistic about the forces at work within North American culture. We believe in absolute truth, and we have a real challenge presenting that to our congregations.

There are those who believe that they are called by the Holy Spirit to continue to be faithful witnesses within the ELCA. We want to support them.

Some congregations are divided. It will be painful and will take years in some congregations to work through these issues. We want to support them.

The majority of ELCA congregations are not talking about the things we are talking about at this conference. Surely there are many individual members or even pastors of these congregations who know the truth but think that they are alone. We want to support them.

What doesn't it mean to work w/in the ELCA;
We aren't a coalition for reform any more. Since fall of 2005, CORE worked within the framework of the ELCA. That is over now. We have concluded that the ELCA has become so political and one sided in moving away from the rest of the ChrIstian Church. By working within them we are not partnering with them or supporting what they are doing. Working in for the sake of the genuine unity given us by God. We allowed our unity as Lutherans to be defined by a denomination. That is not what the Confessions say. Our unity is not in organizations or structures. Our unity is in our confession of faith in Jesus.

So CORE is changing its name: From Coalition for Reform to Coalition for Renewal: God will bring about, in the long run, reform. When God brings us back around to making disciples, there will be revival, renewal, and reform. So we are looking forward to God's renewal.

I have never been more hopeful for the future of a bold, faithful, Lutheran witness in North America. - Mark Chavez

Now we can focus on the future and the wonderful opportunities God has given us. It is going to be an exciting, joyful ride. - Mark Chavez

Live from the NALC Constituting Convention

The Birth of a New American Lutheran Church

I'm in Grove City, Ohio, at the Second Lutheran CORE convocation and the founding conference for the North American Lutheran Church, the newest group to be formed from the continued disintegration of the ELCA.

General Impressions:
Amazed at how many people are here. Somewhere between 1500-2000.
Disappointed, but not surprised that there is no Wi-Fi, so I cannot Tweet, and wishing I had 3G.
Lots of clerical collars.
Lots of older folks, by which I mean, older than me.
I know almost no one. What does that mean? Simply that this is a much, much broader group of people than the midwestern types I generally associate with. There are people here from all over. The churches are mostly traditional Lutheran, they know the hymns in the green book that we at Zion never sing,

Opening Remarks from Pastor Paul Uhlring
"We have developed a provider of services view of denominations." That will change with NALC.
NALC will link us together as faithful, confessional lutherans... It will be less and quite different than what the ELCA was.
We will learn just how well we can be church with less.
"Ecclesiology is no bureaucracy."
We will look at each other and say, "We can do that."
We must do mission.
"A year from now or whenever we meet next, may there be people who came to faith in Jesus." Nothing is more important or matters more than that.
Let us live in forgiveness and grace. I don't want to be merely against things, lets not peddle dirt and pain around. Resentment is the only poison we take ourselves. Let us be salt and light for JC. Lets be for his heart and desire that all come to know him and be saved. Lets be for serving in his name. Lets connect with those who don't know him.
American Lutheran history isn't good - a history of what people are against. Let's change it. They never figured out what they were for (previous divisions). Let's learn from what has failed. Let's be for, not against.
Throughout let's be known for mission. Let's feast on God's word, the kingdom that is coming and stop eating poison.
These are wonderful times ahead.
Never heard so much good Lutheran theology than in the last year. Lots of discussion.
CORE will continue to gather and connect faithful Lutherans. Many will head off to join NALC.
Many of the best things, thoughts, theology, are happening lately... God is at work.

Visitors were introduced. The list is impressive. The remarks were made that their presence reminds us that we are not alone and that the larger church is interested in what is happening here.

Ev Lutheran Church in America. (ELCA)
Board of Pensions, (ELCA)
West Virginia - Maryland SYNOD, ELCA
Roman Catholic Church - sec for ecumenical affairs, USC
Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mekani Yesus
Anglican Church in NA - 4 bishops
EV Lutheran Chu in Tanzania - a bishop
Letter of welcome and support from the bishop of the Lutheran Orthodox Church