Some Thoughts Regarding Declaration of Fellowship with AALC

Those who have perused Today’s Business for the upcoming LC-MS convention will have noticed a resolution to declare pulpit and altar fellowship with another American Lutheran Church body (AALC – American Association of Lutheran Churches), whose birth onto the Lutheran church scene was the result of the predictable merger that led to the current ELCA.

I know that our Synod will adopt this resolution at its convention, but I still need to decide how I will vote on it. From the looks of their website, there are some definite positive aspects to the AALC. They are a “Quia” subscription church body, i.e. they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions unconditionally because they are a faithful exposition of the Scriptures. They reject the ordination of women to the pastoral office. They affirm the authority of Scripture, and recognize that it is the sole rule and norm for Christian faith and life. They view the means of Grace (Word, Sacraments) as the means through which the Holy Spirit works, according to AC V of the Lutheran Confessions. And I really did not find anything exceedingly problematic on their website, except that they do have one thing regarding confessional subscription that I found curious. They distinguish between “Basic and Required” and “Normative” when speaking of the Lutheran Confessions:

Section 6. Symbols: Basic and Required
As brief and true statements of the doctrines of the Word of God, this Association accepts and confesses the following Symbols, subscription to which shall be required of all its members, both congregations and individuals:
(1) The ancient ecumenical Creeds: The Apostolic, The Nicene, and the Athanasian;
(2) The Unaltered Augsburg Confession and Luther’s Small Catechism.

Section 7. Book of Concord: Normative
As further elaboration of and in accordance with these Lutheran Symbols, this Association also receives the other documents in the Book of Concord of 1580: the Apology, Luther’s Large Catechism, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord; and recognizes them as normative for its theology.

Perhaps someone with greater theological acumen can explain to me what this means. It appears as if they do not *require* confessional subscription to the whole Book of Concord. Is it just me or does this sound like the rest of the Book of Concord does not hold for them the same normative authority as the UAC does?

Now what goes on individually in their congregations may be another story, same as the LC-MS. But on paper they appear to be an orthodox fellowship of churches. Here is something I pulled from their website regarding their differences with the ELCA:

SCRIPTURE

AALC: The supreme authority in the church, Scripture is the Word of God, inspired, inerrant and infallible.

ELCA: The church avoids clear statements on the nature of the Scripture. It encourages methods of interpretation which assume the Scriptures are man-made, subject to error and too historically limited for doctrinal applications today.

CONFESSIONS

AALC: The Lutheran Confessions along with the three Ecumenical Creeds are normative for today because they are in harmony with what the Scriptures teach. Pastors are required to subscribe to the Confessions “because” of this harmony.

ELCA: While the Confessions are historically important to the church, they are not necessarily true for the church today. Pastors are required to subscribe to the Confessions “in so far as” they agree with the Scripture.

ORDINATION OF WOMEN

AALC: Only men are ordained to the pastoral office, in keeping with the Scriptures.

ELCA: Women are ordained. The ELCA was on the forefront of women in the ministry.

ABORTION AND HOMOSEXUALITY

AALC: We defend the sanctity of life at all ages and sexuality as it’s defined in the Scriptures, between one man and one woman.

ELCA: The ELCA health care plan sanctions abortion. It continues to fund costly studies on sexuality. Groups promoting homosexuality are tolerated in the ELCA.

OUTREACH
AALC: The work of the church is spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in response to the Great Commission.
ELCA: What drives the ELCA is ecumenism over evangelism, with a posture that is defined more by social issues than biblical direction.
You can see more of their doctrinal positions here.
I have heard some talk about problems with charismaticism in this group of churches, and I do not know what this means exactly. One thing that I find problematic is their emphasis on unity in doctrine, but tolerance of diversity in practice. This is the same problem I have with our own emphasis today. Uniformity in liturgical and pastoral practice is seen as something of little consequence or importance. They also seem to look askance at the MO Synod idea that communion is given only to communicant members of other LC-MS parishes. Perhaps their idea of closed communion is more broad than ours. Certainly I recognize that there are a plethora of different ideas in our own synod regarding this. My personal conviction is that communion ought to be given to those with whom we are in pulpit and altar fellowship, period.
I do not know what the liturgical practices of their individual congregations are, but if they are practicing contemporary worship, using scantily clad women to dance, practicing open communion, they’ll feel right at home in the MO Synod (sorry, just had to add a little humor there, not that such things are actually humorous.). I would appreciate any input on this that anyone might have.
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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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10 Responses to Some Thoughts Regarding Declaration of Fellowship with AALC

  1. Lawrence says:

    Section 6. Symbols: Basic and Required
    Section 7. Book of Concord: Normative

    Normative is often defined as Standard. But so is Basic and Required.

    If they are trying to say that they are all Standard, as in Standard Doctrine, then why use different words?

    Sounds like it was written by a business contract writer, or a lawyer. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

    I dunno…

  2. Rev. Eric J Brown says:

    I’m guessing the reasoning for that wording is that in the AALC there are probably some confessional remnants of the old Augustana Synod which merged into the ALC — in 1960 was it? Around there abouts. The Augustana Synod never had a subscription to the full Book of Concord as the Swedes looked at the discussion going on in Germany and shook their heads saying, “Stupid Germans”.

    I don’t think this difference is necessarily an end run around the doctrine (it is something accepted) – but a matter of the historical realities of the congregations that originally constituted the AALC.

    My thinking is this. If there existence as a synod is based on telling the ELCA to go take a long walk – it certainly won’t hurt to have them with us for the next few years until the old Seminexers die off.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “the old Augustana Synod which merged into the ALC — in 1960 was it?”

    My reference book indicates that the Augusta Synod of 1860 merged with the United Lutheran Church in America (1918), the American Ev. Lutheran Church (1871) and the Suomi Synod (1890) to form the Lutheran Church in America (1962).

    M. L. F. Freiberg Sr.

  4. Pr. H. R. says:

    I’m leaning against voting for the resolution not really because of anything I know about the AALC, but precisely because I don’t know anything! (aside from the website stuff: which as you note is encouraging)

    The bureaucrats got together and decided the matter. What’s the rush? Have you ever met an AALC pastor? How many of our guys have? Can we take the next triennium to get to know them? Joint circuit meetings, that kind of thing…

    I just like to be told: Sam Nafzger and the boys sat down with there boys and it’s all kosher…

    +HRC

  5. Paul says:

    Good point Heath. I mean, it’s great and all that they kicked the dust off their feet with the ELCA, but there are some unanswered questions. Of course, to say that they have a problem with charismatics is like the pot calling the kettle black, eh?

  6. Preachrboy says:

    A while back Stefanski put together a few highlights (quite a few) from websites of individual AALC congregations. Based on those, it seems the AALC is more in line with progressive/moderate Missouri than with traditional/confessional Missouri.

    I will see if I can dig up that link. But I think a closer look at the AALC means looking at the actual congregations, not just the national body’s site.

    (btw I am a Houston Delegate too)

  7. Preachrboy says:

    A quick search of Lutherquest archives is quite telling too. Still working on that link…

  8. Preachrboy says:

    Here’s the Stefanski stuff…

    http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=dc6p7knv_4hcqrm4&hl=en_US

    Well worth a look!

  9. Jeff says:

    Heh, I just spent a good hour trying to track down that e-mail Stefanski sent out about the AALC church websites, before finding the link here!

    Thanks preachrboy! 🙂

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