My Sunday morning began March 2 as it usually does at 6:00 a. m. listening to Christian television broadcasting and getting ready for our 8:30 traditional liturgical Service at Christ Lutheran Church in Lakewood.
My wife, Ingrid, and I sing in the choir and leave early to rehearse our morning anthem again. That morning we sang a beautiful choral arrangement by Twila Paris, “Lamb of God, O Lamb of God, Sweet Lamb of God, Washed in His Precious Blood!” Oh, what a glorious way to start the day.
And, as we drove off to church we were especially blessed to be bathed in unexpected sunlight, seeing God’s beautiful flowers starting to open up from the patiently waiting bulbs, now suggesting the ending for us of a rather cold winter and anticipating the coming spring.
We were blessed with a wonderful sermon on the morning text from John 9:1-41 by our pastor, Ralf Kalms, installed in December 2007. As Lutherans we are so blessed every Sunday morning to hear God’s Word preached and taught in its truth and purity. That day we were privileged to hear again the wondrous works of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as He healed the man blind from birth who then declared his belief in Jesus. “I was blind and now I see.”
What I love about my membership and affiliation in the WordAlone Network is the commitment to God’s holy, inspired Word and the authority established through the Confessions and historic standards and practices of the Lutheran Church.
Our Southwestern Washington WordAlone Chapter held its quarterly meeting last month and discussed several items of concern and proposals for action in the coming months. They related to the Southwestern Washington Synod Assembly, which is to be held in May, and projecting ahead to possible actions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly to be held in Minneapolis in 2009.
We were waiting to read, evaluate and respond to the draft social statement on human sexuality scheduled to be released on March 13. Synods will hold hearings on the draft statement from April through October. Responses to the task force on the social statement on human sexuality have a deadline of Nov. 1. I believe responses to this social statement by bishops, pastors and members of the ELCA are critically important now as never before.
At our last WordAlone Chapter we invited Gary Jepsen, one of our board pastor advisors, to comment on the impact and work of WordAlone. He is pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Puyallup, Wash., and also is scheduled to be one of our principal speakers at the annual convention of the WordAlone Network in Golden Valley, Minn., April 13-14, 2008. Our particular concern at this stage in our development as a chapter, and I am sure as well as for the WordAlone Network, is how do we make our message more positive to all of our Lutheran churches, pastors and congregational members without losing the essential position we have always held regarding our commitment to the authority of Scriptures (Old and New Testaments), the Confessions and Lutheran practices as taught in the Book of Concord.
Pastor Jepsen commented on his call and ordination promises as a Lutheran pastor. I asked if he would send me some information that would be helpful to me as I prepared this article. Pastor Jepsen referred me to the faith statements from the ELCA Constitution.
Reviewing some excerpts of the ELCA Constitution and some statements from Vision and Expectations helped remind me of the richness and quality of the work of those who originally brought our founding church bodies together to organize and establish the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
From the constitution:
*2.03 This church accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life.
*2.04 This church accepts the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds as true declarations of the faith of this church.
*2.05 This church accepts the Unaltered Augsburg Confession as a true witness to the Gospel acknowledging as one with it in faith and doctrine all churches that likewise accept the teachings of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession.
*2.07 This church confesses the Gospel, recorded in the Holy Scripture and confessed in the ecumenical creeds and Lutheran confessional writings, as the power of God to create and sustain the Church for God’s mission in the world.
Vision and Expectations of Ordained Ministers in the ELCA presented a strong statement regarding the standards, which we have come to respect so highly, for our pastors and shepherds. Two paragraphs on the first page of the nine-page document, which can be printed from the ELCA website, read as follows:
“Within the people of God and for the sake of the Gospel ministry entrusted to all believers, God has instituted the office of the ministry of Word and Sacrament. To carry out this ministry, this church calls and ordains qualified persons.
“An ordained minister of this church shall be a person whose commitment to Christ, soundness of faith, aptness to preach, teach and witness, and whose educational qualifications have been examined and approved in the manner prescribed in the documents of this church; who has been properly called and ordained; who accepts and adheres to the Confession of Faith of this church; who is diligent and faithful in the exercise of the ministry; and whose life and conduct are above reproach. A minister shall comply with constitution of this church.”
About a week ago our WordAlone Chapter board chairman, Pastor William Johnson, and I went to Olympia, Wash., to make arrangements for our chapter luncheon during the Southwestern Washington Synod assembly at the end of May. We are pleased this year that Pastor Jaynan Clark Egland, our capable and dedicated president of the WordAlone Network, has accepted the invitation to be our speaker. Last year Pastor Mark Chavez, WA Network director, spoke to a standing-room only audience at our luncheon during the 2007 synod assembly. We currently have a chapter mailing list of about 260 addressees who are members of WordAlone or have expressed interest in hearing about our efforts for the church.
As I approach the end of my one-year term at the annual convention in April, I have expressed to friends and colleagues my great pleasure and the honor it has been to serve on the WordAlone Network Board. I have indicated to the nominating committee that I am willing to serve a full term of three-years, contingent that is if the delegates at the annual meeting choose to elect me among what I know will be many most qualified nominees, and that it fits into God’s plan for my life. Of all the boards and leadership positions I have held over many long years of service to my profession, the church, and the communities in which I have lived, there has never been, in my estimation, a position of such great and significant import as that of serving on the board of the WordAlone Network. I have been richly blessed by my association with this outstanding board and staff, and this writing occasion provides the opportunity to say “thank you.”
As I evaluate my participation in this major church discussion, I, with others, believe the controversy and dissenting opinions center and focus on the historic and foundational Lutheran position regarding the authority of Scripture. Some of us who are members of the WordAlone Network believe that the Word of God was written by people who were inspired in their thinking and writing by the Holy Spirit. As Paul instructed Timothy, it is “God-breathed.” The Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments, are one continuous, inspired Word of God from the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, and that is what I believe to be true.
As Scripture says in Revelation 22:18-19, you cannot add or subtract from the prophecies of God as it is written in His book of instruction. And, it remains today and yesterday and all the days to come the infallible Word of our faith for life. So, essentially, we as followers of Christ believe in the authority of Scriptures, the Confessions of the Church, Martin Luther’s Small and Large Catechism and the instructions and explanations of our doctrines and faith as they are included in the Book of Concord.
I am reminded of some hymn titles as I conclude,
“Lord, Keep Me Steadfast in Thy Word”
“My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”
“God’s Word is Our Great Heritage”