Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Fellowship and the AALC

In July of 2006 the LCMS announced that that leaders from the LCMS and the AALC (American Association of Lutheran Churches) were unanimously recommending complete altar and pulpit fellowship between the two denominations. An article from the LCMS website can be found here. While this may seem like a bit of 'old' news, some reasons compel me to write about it now:

The convention is only about a half year away. There will be those who will push this hard for passage. Serious concerns will possibly be swept to the side, as often happens. Like many conventions I fear that there will be many who will not be well informed about the past history of the AALC or the numerous concerns by some within the LCMS. For background you can read a short history of the AALC in this wikipedia article. There is also a fine Q & A article on the WELS site that is worthy reading. It summarizes well the questions any Lutheran should be asking about this proposed fellowship agreement.

What are some of these concerns? The openness to the charismatic movement is probably one of the biggest for me personally. We have been battling this within the LCMS since the 1970s, and when RIM (Renewal in Missouri, now no longer visible) came into being in the 1980s, it seemed as if it was even more entrenched. The LCMS has long had a weakness in this area. Even today, I fear that as a synod do not have a good handle on charismatic tendencies in our midst, and our own official synodical materials have sometimes betrayed a weak understanding of the charismata and the Holy Spirit (e.g. the notorious "gifts inventory" that was used with stewardship materials in the past.)

Another concern involves the lack of precision in their doctrinal position and their approach to fellowship in the Lord's Supper. The AALC has long prized in its history the idea that they were a merger of different perspectives, with a "live and let live" view of their own differences. Thus, their idea of fellowship, while attractive and agreeable to many in the LCMS today, stands to only exasperate the tensions we are currently wrestling with in our own midst.

According to the Christian News issue of January 1, 2006, a letter of concern was sent by some of the pastors of the AALC to their presiding pastor, Thomas Aaland, with whom they confess a losss of confidence. Their concerns there expressed echo issues I mentioned above. If this letter is legitimate, I hope that it receives due attention within the AALC. Pushing for fellowship before either side is completely comfortable and ready is unwise. And personally I don't think either side is ready.

This push for fellowship appears to follow a familiar direction into which the LCMS is being led by leadership. Previous concerns about these issues, such as communion fellowship, praying in public with non-Christians, etc., seem to be past and buried, from an official point of view. It appears as if we seem to want to move beyond these and establish a 'middle road' that is not completely faithful to our historic position. Fellowship with the AALC, I fear, would send a message that those in leadership feel we should be more like the AALC than what we were in the past. Is this our new model?

Previous articles in this blog regarding a push for greater openness to ecumenical associations (as expressed on the DayStar site) further demonstate the movement underfoot within the synod. I may be paranoid (but not without cause), but a picture appears to be opening up for me as to where leadership wants to take the LCMS, and it seems like it is straight for the ELCA! The ELCA model and the AALC model are closer than either might admit. The idea, it seems, is to have a broad umbrella and put as many people under it as possible.

I hope that the delegates look closely at what is coming in July. From my participation at the convention in '04 I know how it works. I am still disappointed on how the resolution on the role of women was pushed through even over the clear objections of the minority report from the CTCR which simply called for more study! Delegates must study the materials and ask honest questions. Letting delegates go as "blank slates" who come with no preconceived understanding is not good. It takes work to be a delegate, and when the convention comes it takes courage to speak out. If you know a delegate encourage them to look seriously at all the material out there.


Bob said...

Where does Issues, Etc. stand on the ecumenical tendencies of the LCMS. Just wondering if it would be possible to do some broadcasts on this subject.

The Heresy Hunter

D. Engebretson said...

Issues, Etc. tends to be quite consevative. I suspect that they would not be supportive of some of the movements these days. One could surely suggest that they include this in their upcoming interviews.

The Heresy Hunter said...

I e-mailed Todd Wilken with that suggestion. We've spoken before with regard to a magazine article I was writing, so maybe he'll consider doing that.

The Rev. K.R. Schaaf said...

Great post Don! What you have described here with the AALC is exactly what my District is all about. We are told that its ok to have churches that are "charismatic", something still evident in my neck of the woods because some of RIM's founders reside here. We are told that its ok to have churches with open communion or with join ELCA-LCMS schools that have ELCA headmasters. We are told its ok to not call yourselves Lutheran, especially if its a mission church because the word "community" sounds so much more appealing to the visitor. The District I am in looks at all of these things as "unique characteristics that make up the tossed salad that our District is" Never mind if its right or wrong, its just "what those people do at that location". You may not like it, but you can go to some other place that fits your style, just let them be. I fear that is going to be the case here with this possible merger. The AALC will come across as another set of churches in our Districts that "do things a bit different" and thereby totally take away any "walking together' that our Synod is about. The laity will be uniformed as usual I'm sure, and it will come across as something to boost "numbers" and "the mission" when it comes to a vote. I thank you for your continued outcry of this and for taking the time to educate on this.