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:
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.
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.
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.
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.