Raspberry Rabbit put up a post in reference to Lutherans asking the question why there’s been no talk of schism there. I answered by saying that there was talk—lots of it—right around the time of CCM. My own understanding is that the only reason that the Word Alone group didn’t leave the ELCA is because of a lack of funding.
I was, at the time, in a former ALC seminary and I know the majority of the folks there would have been happy to not be tied to CCM and the apostolic succession. I also remember wandering the halls of LutherSem on a visit and seeing the tracts and pamphlets posted around the place. The energy was there—but it didn’t happen. Do the current Lutherans out there know better than I—was it just a money issue or was there more to it? And—is there talk/speculation/documentation around that would back this suspicion up?
Hmmmmm…so much to say…but here is the brief version.
My feeling as an ELCA pastor is that (for the most part) we tend to be rather congregational in our outlook. This has both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that we tend not to get overly wrapped up in controversies. A disadvantage is that we often are disconnected from the mission and vision of the larger church.
I was applying to seminaries around the time of the original concordat, and had a very similar experience at Luther Sem. My own parish pastor discouraged me from going even though I was offered a full scholarship. That is how I ended up doing the MDiv at our mutual alma mater.
Anyway, the WordAlone folks made sense at first about staying true to our confessional heritage, but I believe a lot of more moderate to liberal pastors began to see through some of the confessional talk and see WA as being less about the HE and more about axe grinding on other issues. They just never got a lot of support from the broader church, and lost many moderate to liberal pastors and laity due to this.
People like myself – who self identify with the evangelical catholic wing of Lutheranism – found WA to be very low church, pietist, and a bit too…well..Protestant (and not in the good way). We just didn’t fit. They seem to affirm the free church style of Lutheranism that we smells and bells types don’t fancy. So WA never got many of us. And that is not to say I don’t agree with some of their positions. I appreciate what they are trying to do on one level, but it just isn’t for me.
As far as the money issue I don’t know for sure. I think it may be linked to their lack of ability to build a solid base anywhere but the midwest.
I can honestly tell you that in my parish, most people could care less about WA, and the whole issue with CCM was barely even on their radars. It was a big deal when I was applying to sems because the ELCA and the TEC shared student ministry while I was in college, and we were greatly blessed by one another.
As far how many churches left for the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (lcmc, the bastard child of WA), I think the number is less than 150 out of more than 10,000 congregations.
I know LZ once did the WA thing, but backed out. He may have more insight than I do.
Hope this rambling helps.
One further thought:
TEC does not have substantial rival groups like most other Protestant Churches. On the Lutheran landscape in US, you have two large groups and several smaller groups, so people already are drawn into the groups of their leanings. Most of the conservatives are already in the LCMS or WELS, so there is no real need to start a new group like the AMiA. You rarely hear of churches leaving en masse, it is more like people leaving one Lutheran church and going to the one down the street. After all, I think for much of the laity, Lutheran is Lutheran is Lutheran.
We also have no need to be in fellowship with a particular figure head, like Rowan, which completely changes the dynamics.
our parish is apparently the home of the original congregationalists. honestly. as long as they don’t have to see a women priest or be told that a priest is gay, they’re content.
that’s random, but it struck me reading lp’s comment about congregationalism.
Until last year I was a member of a congregation that had a very active WordAlone group. During the CCM controversy there were a few people who were very vocal proponents of leaving the ELCA, but the majority of the laity just didn’t see what the big deal was. A few key staff members made it clear that they would not be leaving the ELCA, regardless of what the congregation did. Eventually we formed a “taskforce” to study the issue and they came to the very wise conclusion that we just shouldn’t do anything. The loudest of the WA people was quietly asked to leave.
Then when the sexuality issue came to the fore, the WA people raised their heads again. More organized this time around, they managed to pack the church board with their people and got the congregation signed on (without any open congregational announcement) as a member of the “Lutheran Churches of the Common Confession” (see http://www.commonconfession.net/). This was the last straw for me, so I went to a more inclusive congregation. I suspect if the congregational politics had swung the other way, a group of people would have left for Missouri Synod congregations. That is, LP’s suggestion about alternatives makes a lot of sense to me.
Based on just this one case, my perception was that WA just didn’t have broad enough support in the congregation to do anything drastic like getting us to leave the ELCA — plus they got their way in the churchwide assembly. Their official party line is that they need to stay in the ELCA to reform it.
I find it to be a great irony that while WA makes a great stance of being “true to our Lutheran heritage” on these sorts of issues, they tend to be open to whatever sort of praxis is popular, abandoning such staples as lectionary and formal liturgy.
Like LP, I had an initially favorable reaction to the idea of WA, but once I looked into it it lost its appeal.