The Past, Present and Future of the “Center” of Lutheranism The Rev. Dr. Jim Galezewski Evangelical Lutheran Conference and Ministerium (ELCM) Pre-Suppositions of this Presentation The Word of God is infallible and immutable. The Lutheran Book of Concord is a true interpretation of God’s Word. Human beings are fallible. Hence, our interpretations of both Scripture and Confessions will vary. In the United States, Lutheranism has grown in a strong spirit of independence and conviction, many times over and against the state churches they came from. Therefore, there has been a variety of confessional stances in American Lutheranism The Core of this Presentation Lutheran Christianity in America has clustered around three main confessional stances: Loose (flexible and neo-orthodox) Orthodox, yet flexible Liberal Pietist (looser confessionally, stricter in practice) Centrist Orthodox and strict Conservative Ultra-Orthodox Formation of the Lutheran Church Three Phases: Phase 1: Struggle and establishment Phase 2: Consolidation (Orthodoxy) Phase 3: Response to Orthodoxy (Pietism) and moves toward the New World Phase 1: Struggle and Establishment Protest against abuses and errors Formation of the movement and excommunication Development of theological positions (Luther’s writings and Augsburg Confession) Justification and salvation Sola Scripture/Sola fide/Sola gratia Priesthood of all believers Word of God and the Sacraments (means of grace) Struggle/War 30 Years war and Peace of Westphalia Establishment in Germany, Scandinavia, parts of Eastern Europe Phase 2: Consolidation (Orthodoxy) Emphasis on practical institutional matters Clarification of teachings: Systematic Theology Confidence in reliability of Scripture Precision of thought and expression Criteria for purity of doctrine more carefully delineated Phase 3: Response to Orthodoxy Critique: Too rigid and “quietistic” Moved away from “right thinking” to “right feeling” and “right action” Emphasis on the experience of faith and its meaning for the believer. Conventicles of Bible reading and prayer Played down the importance of orthodox doctrine 1st Missionary Center: Halle This reaction established a polar tension in Lutheranism that exists to this day This reaction established a polar tension in Lutheranism that exists to this day There has not been one single identity or culture in American Lutheranism. It has always been pluralistic and in tension. Different historical and ethnic influences Different ranges of Biblical and doctrinal interpretation Different structures/governance Different relationships between church and culture There has Always been a “Lutheran Center” in American Lutheran History American Lutheranism Loose Centrist Strict Sidney Ahlstrom (1950’s): Lutheranism is best understood when it is seen not as something indistinguishably blended in…but as a tradition living in a real but fruitful state of tension…” The “Center” of American Lutheranism is re-forming ELCM, LCMC (and Districts), AOELS, AALC and other Denominations 1700’s: The 1st Mission Period First Lutherans: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia and the Carolinas Loose: Zinzendorfers: Lutheran Moravians Very ecumenical: Has Lutheranism outlived its usefulness? Subjective aspects of religion Loose adherence to the confessions Strict: The Altdorf School and the Swedish Lutherans Berkenmeyer in NY, Ulsperger in Georgia Orthodox in Doctrine Trained in Europe NY Ministerium Center: H.M. Muhlenberg Trained in Halle, but confessional Use of English United Ministerium of PA 1800’s: Formation of Church Bodies Strict: Ohio Synod 1818 (John Stough), Norwegian Synod, Synod of MO (1830’s) Center: PA Ministerium, Southern Synods (GA, NC, SC, VA, MD) Looser: Ministerium of NY Evangelical catechism “New Hymnal” The Question: To what degree do we cooperate and blend in with other American protestants? Is a confessional Lutheranism necessary? 1840’s-1860’s: Americanist Controversy Sides are taken and consolidation occurs. Time of growth, organizing, publishing seminaries Loose: The General Synod (S.S. Schmucker) Semi-Amalgamation with American Protestantism Gettysburg Seminary Altered Augsburg Confession Center: The General Council (C. P. Krauth) Confessionally Orthodox Philadelphia Seminary Unaltered Augsburg Confession Strict: Missouri Synod (C.F. Walther),Ohio Synod, Buffalo Synod (J. Grabau) 1860’s-1900: 2nd Period of Immigration Largely Scandinavian, some Germans Free Church (pietist) vs. State Church (orthodox) Many new ethnic denominations Loose: General Synod, Eielsen and Hauge Synods (Norwegian Pietist), United Danish L.C. (Holy Danes), Finnish Apostolic L.C. (“Apps”) Centrist: General Council, United Norwegian L.C., Danish EV. L.C. (Happy Danes), Suomi Synod, Augustana Synod Strict: Synodical Conference (Synod of MO, OH and other states, Buffalo Synod, Norwegian Synod) 1900’s: Time of Consolidation 1 Loose: Pietists (Lutheran Free Church, Lutheran Brethren) Center: United Lutheran Church in America (ULCA, 1918), Augustana, Norwegian L.C. of America (former United N.L.C.), Danish EV. L.C. (Happy Danes), Suomi Synod Strict: Synodical Conference: Synod of Missouri, Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS, former Norwegian Synod) 1930’s: Time of Consolidation 2 American Lutheran Church (ALC) forms as result of merger of Centrist Norwegian L.C. of America (former United N.L.C.), United Danish EV. L.C. (Holy Danes) ULCA begins to create closer ties with Augustana Synod, Danish EV. L.C. (Happy Danes), Suomi Synod. Becomes more American, liberal in outlook Synodical Conference adds Wisconsin Synod to mix 1960’s: Time of Consolidation 3 Loose: LCA formed by merger of ULCA begins to create closer ties with Augustana Synod, Danish EV. L.C. (Happy Danes), Suomi Synod. Centrist: ALC adds Lutheran Free Church to its fold Strict: Synodical Conference (LCMS, WELS, ELS) 1988: Time of Consolidation 4 Loose: ELCA (LCA, ALC, AELC/Missouri liberals) Strict: LC-MS, WELS, ELS For the first time in American Lutheran history, NO CENTER!!!! First Attempts: American Association of Lutheran Congregations (AALC) Association of Lutheran Free Churches (AFLC) Present: Break-offs and Dissenters Call to Common Mission and the “Family Statement” Word Alone and LCMC Districts forming Mostly former ALC/ELCA Congregations ELCM Mostly former LCA/ELCA Congregations Some LCMS and WELS participation AOELS Other Small Denominations What Will Happen? God Knows…. ELCA/Episcopalian “concordat” Asking again: has Lutheranism in the U.S. outlived its usefulness? Missouri Controversy: Over legalism in that denomination Attempts and confederation of dissenters as the new Lutheran “Center” Joint House of Studies Some type of new “General Council” or Evangelical Lutheran Council of North America Possible future overtures to AALC and AFLC? Are the Dissenters “Splinter Groups” and “Spoilers”? NO! Lutheran polarity is a historical reality. Total Lutheran consolidation and unionism with other denominations, goes against the very tension inherent in American Lutheranism Since 1988, there has been no viable Lutheran “Center”, causing disequilibrium in American Lutheranism Lutheranism is now doing what it always has done: re-configuring according to confessional interpretation and practice This re-configuration restores American Lutheranism’s historical balance!!!!!!