The dissent and divisions that have resulted in American Lutheranism following the 2009 decision to support the ordination of gays and lesbians in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has followed a distinctly “post-denominational,” decentralized pattern.
Network News (May/ June), the newsletter of the conservative Lutheran renewal group Word Alone, notes that even before last summer, various organizations and initiatives emerged to represent either more orthodox Lutherans remaining in or those leaving the ELCA, such as Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, Sola Publishing, the Institute for Lutheran Theology and Lutheran CORE. What has happened since the ELCA decision is that these and newer groups have been networking to create a situation where those congregations remaining in the denomination (for now) are sharing the same resources and connections as those that have left (over 300 congregations), even as the former’s ties to the official bureaucracy and hierarchy weaken.
This can be seen clearly in the development of Lutheran CORE, which was formed as a denominational renewal/reform group about a year before the ELCA decision. By last fall, Lutheran CORE had proposed a “reconfiguration” of American Lutheranism and planned to establish a new denomination, to be called the North American Lutheran Church, by August of 2010.
At the same time, Lutheran CORE seeks to provide programs and resources for congregations, individual members and clergy who are remaining in the ELCA. Ryan Schwartz, a leader of Lutheran CORE, remarks that “We are trying to do something that has proven difficult in other Reformation traditions: maintain tangible unity and organic relationships between those who leave and those who stay. But we see no other path.”
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