February 18, 2010
Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther, Renewer of the Church, 1546
Dear Friends in Christ,
We are living in an exciting time for confessing Lutherans in North America! Pastors and laypeople increasingly are engaged in the life of the Church beyond their congregations. Many are returning with new zeal to the true mission of the Church, the sharing of the Good News of Christ Jesus. Many are eager for new fellowships, new structures, and new ways of doing common ministry. And all this is happening in a society that has become once more a mission field, a culture desperately in need of the Gospel of our Lord and Savior.
In September 2009, Lutheran CORE's national convocation, meeting in Fishers, IN, committed us to pursue the "reconfiguration of North American Lutheranism," by providing for the needs both of those who plan to leave and those who plan to remain within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) in this season of challenge and opportunity. This document summarizes our vision and plan for pursuing these goals.
Lutheran CORE affirms the faithful call of confessing Lutherans, some of whom will remain in the ELCA and ELCIC and some of whom are now called to different affiliations. We envision a reconfiguration that maintains the highest degree of ongoing unity and cooperation possible among those who leave and those who stay. A primary vehicle for this unity will be the continuing ministry of Lutheran CORE, reconfigured as an association of confessing Lutherans spanning denominational bodies. However, after hearing the hopes and requests of many of those who plan to leave their current church bodies, we are now also proposing the formation of a new denominational body for confessing Lutherans: the North American Lutheran Church (NALC).
The NALC will be a faithful and innovative Lutheran church body that spans national borders. It will hold at its heart the Great Commission of Jesus to "make disciples of all nations." It will utilize networked ministries of local congregations and parachurch organizations, rather than the large bureaucracy of a denominational body. It will be governed by a convocation of representative delegates from its congregations, and it will submit major decisions to congregational ratification. It will stand in continuity with the 2,000 year history of "the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church," marrying the classical form of the church catholic with flexible structures appropriate for its ministry emphases. It will be ecumenically engaged and confessionally grounded.
It will also be a church body bigger than itself, for it will work in close partnership and cooperation with the community of Lutheran CORE. For confessing Lutherans who will remain within the ELCA and ELCIC, Lutheran CORE will offer an alternate ecclesial family, where they can connect with each other and with confessing Lutherans in the NALC and other church bodies. Some will choose to coordinate witness initiatives within the ELCA or ELCIC through this community. Many will choose to organize collaborative ministry initiatives with their partners in Lutheran CORE. Mindful of the objective of ongoing unity, the NALC will conduct many of its ministry initiatives with and through its partners in the Lutheran CORE community. And Lutheran CORE will organize its capabilities to provide resources, advice and assistance to its members in carrying out their local ministries.
Both the NALC and Lutheran CORE will be centered on four key attributes: Christ-Centered, Mission-Driven, Traditionally-Grounded and Congregationally-Focused:
- Christ-Centered: We confess the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures. We affirm the authority of the canonical Holy Scriptures as the only source and norm of our faith and life. We accept the ecumenical creeds and the Lutheran Confessions as true witnesses to the Word of God.
- Mission-Driven: We believe that making disciples for Christ is the core priority of the Church, that congregation planting is often best done through local congregations, and that both external and internal evangelization must be a priority of the Church in the present age.
- Traditionally-Grounded: We affirm the ecumenical creeds and the faithful witness of the Church across time and space. We endorse the form and practices of the universal Church that are consistent with Scripture, particularly the office of the ministry and the tradition of worship under Word and Sacrament. We seek dialogue and fellowship with other Lutheran churches and with faithful Christians of other confessions.
- Congregationally-Focused: We envision a new church body and confessing community that are organized to facilitate the ministries of local congregations in a posture of servanthood and a spirit of partnership, through the provision of resources, connections and information.
In the hope that God will use these efforts to His purposes, we offer this plan for review and comment by all confessing Lutherans in North America.
The Lutheran CORE Vision and Planning Working Group
The Lutheran CORE Steering Committee
The Lutheran CORE Advisory Council
Read it all here (pdf format) or here. Shrimp out.