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


  1. I find myself in a bit of a conundrum. I really think vestments, hymns, liturgy, etc. are important (I think my congregation is a little weak on that, more like the sandals and shorts) but I distrust church hierarchies and Bishops? I'm kind of a high church - low church blend.

  2. You are traditionally grounded and that's good. You want to worship a particular way but you don't want someone to tell you how to worship nor have you a need for extensive supervision. Sounds good to me.