Although most of us already knew "the way" it was certainly a good experience for board members and staff while St. Timothy Lutheran Church in San Jose, Calif. graciously hosted us for our quarterly meeting in mid-October.
Because we gathered in California where a number of people involved with FOCL (Fellowship of Confessing Lutherans) reside, the board spent time with FOCL leaders discussing the future for confessional Lutherans and how we can work together to increase our effectiveness in delivering our messages and broadening our impacts.
With education being a primary area in which the WordAlone Network is involved, the board gladly heard my reports regarding the early work of our new education director, Pastor Steven King. He is developing many new resources and will present them officially at the annual convention in April 2008. Sola Publishing, a new venture for WordAlone—established in order to produce our new resources—was introduced. I also informed the board that WordAlone's first book, "By What Authority?" is scheduled to be in print next year.
The staff updated the board on our fall theological event to be held Nov. 11-13 at First Evangelical Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake, Minn., that will explore discerning the spirits. The board discussed plans for the annual convention next April 13-14 at Calvary Lutheran Church, Golden Valley, Minn., and encouraged staff to highlight our growing educational program.
The board heard reports from its task force on institute autonomy; the staff of the theological institute, Pastor Dennis Bielfeldt, Ph.D., director, and Pastor Randy Freund, associate director; and consultant Charles Manske, Ph.D., founding president of Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. They shared information regarding the program, identity and structure of the emerging institute.
Also discussed was the future relationship of the institute to the WordAlone Network. After much discussion and consideration, the board voted to grant complete and immediate autonomy to the institute in order to help with the efforts to gain accreditation and to broaden their base of support as a pan-Lutheran entity. The board also appointed the first three members to the institute's board of regents: Chairperson Doug Dillner (current member of the WordAlone board and U.S. Naval Academy professor), G. Barry Anderson (associate justice, Minnesota Supreme Court) and Uwe Siemon-Netto, Ph.D. (International journalist and director of the Center for Lutheran Theology and Public Life, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.)
Working with others interested in reform of Christ's church motivates our increasing support of and involvement in Lutheran CORE. The board heard reports about the churchwide assembly last August and Lutheran CORE's post-churchwide-assembly meeting the end of September, both held in the Chicago area. By working with other reform groups and interested individuals under the Lutheran CORE banner while providing administrative staff support as a member organization WordAlone has helped to broaden its base, Mark Chavez director of both Lutheran CORE and WordAlone explained to the board.
Presently, WordAlone synod contacts work with Lutheran CORE coordinators, who in some places are the same person. Our concern is getting the work done, including: electing reform minded individuals for assembly voting seats and positions on councils and committees; holding the line on biblical ministry standards; and passing legislation at churchwide assemblies that helps make the denomination's governmental process more representative. WordAlone facilitates a more efficient effort with our partners across the ELCA.
Seminarians making requests to be ordained according to a Lutheran understanding of ordination and ministry rather than under an Episcopal practice now total at least 37 persons in 17 synods though there probably are more that we are not aware of. Alarming are reports that at least two requests were refused in 2007. The board agreed to send a letter of support to all those individuals making requests for non-episcopal ordinations. If and when seminarians denied exceptions permit WordAlone to tell their stories publicly, we will report them to bring attention to such violations of conscience by bishops or their staffs that are being allowed in the ELCA.
The board also received reports from the audit committee and the treasurer that reflected a clean bill of financial health for WordAlone.
Additional items of business the board discussed included plans to:
In conclusion I urge you to consider—as you prepare your church and individual budgets for next year—increased support for the Network. As you just have read, we are working to broaden our base and increase our educational programs. Also consider additional support for the emerging independent institute. We all are challenged to look at what we give as benevolence dollars and to consider how we can most faithfully support those ministries that witness to what we truly believe. WordAlone board members and staff will enter 2008 with our eyes focused on our goal to witness to the authority of the Word of God as the source and norm for all of faith and life and to uphold that Truth whenever and wherever it comes under attack, even if, and especially if, from within Christ Jesus' own church.
In His grace and peace,
Jaynan Clark Egland, president