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August 2, 2013

Lutheran Exceptionalism—from Hope to Decline

(Photo Credit, elca.org)

In the Halcyon days of the 1950s, Lutherans were considered by church historians and Lutherans themselves to be importantly different from both mainline Protestants and Evangelicals.  They had, Robert Handy remarked in the 1950s, a stronger doctrinal base than Methodists, Episcopalians, and Congregationalists while they were more churchly—both liturgically and in appreciation of the whole scope of church history—than Evangelicals.  They were expanding in numbers and influence.  They had impressive leadership:  Franklin Clark Fry, the President of the United Lutheran Church in America, appeared on the cover of Time magazine with the caption:  “Mr. Protestant.”  Exceptionally positioned as they were, mainstream Lutherans were expected to provide renewed Protestant vitality in America.

Ah, but it was not to be.   While the two most conservative—the Wisconsin and Missouri Synods—bodies remained aloof from other Lutherans and from American life in general, the main body of Lutherans participated in mergers that seemed for a time to make them stronger.   Many smaller ethnic churches joined into two new major churches in the early 1960s—the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church.   Like most American denominations, membership in all the Lutheran churches peaked at about 1965.  Optimism about the future of Lutheranism in America abounded.  That is, until the last merger produced the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in 1988.

Its foundation was characterized by a strong attempt by radicals to start a “new church.”  Slogans such as “This is not the church your parents knew,” or pictures with a Native American—or African-American or Asian—claiming that “I am the ELCA” certainly gave that impression.  (Can you imagine a white male asserting that “I am the ELCA?”)  Theologians and Bishops—then mostly white males—were marginalized from the formal and informal guidance system of the church.  Quotas—very unpopular at the time— were imposed on all working and decision-making bodies.   Though the church had at best 2% minority membership, 10% quotas for “people of color and language other than English” were enacted.   Likewise, 50% quotas for women and laypeople were legislated.  The whole point was to usher “many voices” into the conversation to undercut the authority of the old white male elites.  In that the ELCA was inordinately successful, for it mixed things up enough to prevent any authoritative orthodox guidance system from emerging.

But there is always some theology that wends its way into such a situation, disguised though it may be.  Increasingly the theology of Protestant liberalism crept in in three key areas—the nature of salvation itself; the decisiveness and uniqueness of Christ as Savior; and the familiar sexuality issues.    One need do nothing to be saved, for God loves you unconditionally, just as you are, by virtue of your creation.  Repentance and amendment of life are beside the point.   Christianity and the other great religions are on different tracks to the same destination; evangelism is replaced by dialogue.  Christian moral requirements in sexual life are outdated and need sharp revision.  Inclusivism, universalism, and revisionism became the leit-motifs of the ELCA at its elite levels.  Slowly they have filtered down to the parish level.

The trouble is, such a lax vision hardly inspires one to become a serious member of the church.* If God loves you just the way you are and all will be saved, why bother?  Enjoy cultural libertarianism rather than struggle with difficult moral standards.   Join the quasi-religious social movements such as militant environmentalism directly rather than filter ones concerns through the church.  So the young are drawn to the culture rather than the church.  Alarmed intense believers go to other churches or join dissident Lutheran bodies.  Many in the local parishes that remain in the ELCA try to seal themselves off from the controversies provoked by the ascendance of liberal theology and ethics.

The results have been devastating.   Rather than being exceptional in their promise for renewing American Protestantism, mainstream Lutherans have become exceptional in the rapidity and extensity of their decline.  The National Council of Churches reports that the ELCA has “the sharpest rate of membership decline” among all mainline Protestant denominations.

At its inception in 1988 the ELCA it had about 5.3 million members in 11,133 churches.  Every year but two has marked decline in membership; every year has marked a loss of congregations.  In 2010 and 2011 after the decisions of 2009 in which gay blessings and ordinations were approved, the ELCA lost 710 congregations.  Now two break-off churches—Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the North American Lutheran Church—account for about 1100 congregations.  In 2011 the ELCA listed 4,059,785 members and 9,638 congregations.  By 2013 there is little doubt it has fallen below 4,000,000.  From 2003-2011 weekly attendance dropped by 26% across the church.  There is decline in every demographic, every geographic area.

Liberal Lutherans in Canada have suffered even more losses, if that can be imagined.  The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has followed closely in the liberal steps of the ELCA, with similar results.  Founded in 1986 it has dropped from 262,000 members to 139,000.  Fifty-four congregations have closed with 64 more likely to follow.  Thirty-five have departed for other Lutheran bodies, 19 to the new North American Lutheran Church.

*The standard reason offered for the decline of the mainline denominations is that they are diminished by weak demographics.  But that just begs the question:  there is a strong correlation between religious intensity and higher birth rates.  Even among mainstream Protestants weekly observance correlates with higher birth-rates than those of more sporadic attendance.

The number of missionaries—especially ministers of the Gospel—have precipitously declined in both denominations.   African churches are breaking fellowship with them over sexuality issues.  The ELCA’s most distinguished theologians—Robert Jenson, Carl Braaten, James Nestingen, David Yeago—are all now persona non grata within that church and are speaking writing in different churches and venues.  The last mentioned, David Yeago, was released at the height of his career from Southern Lutheran Seminary, presumably for not being compliant enough with ELCA orthodoxy.

In spite of all this, the Presiding Bishops of both churches seem unworried.   Speaking of the recent 25th anniversary of the ELCA, Bishop Hanson exulted:  “Yet the host of relationships that were formed in 1988 is only a glimmer of the newness that has been arriving in our midst.   I absolutely am convinced that this is a great time to give a Lutheran evangelical witness to the gospel.”   He has emphasized that the church really knows who it is now that the conflicts have subsided and the pesky orthodox have departed.  A wag might agree by suggesting it is now a clearly liberal Protestant church.

The Canadian Presiding Bishop, Susan Johnson, is perhaps a bit worried but clueless.  This crisis, she opines, is an opportunity to “define what our core mission is and how we best can accomplish it.”  Struggling to define that core mission, she further asserts that “God is calling us, and indeed all the churches in North America and much of Europe, to a new thing.  What’s hard is that we don’t know what that new thing is going to be.”  Again, seeing how obsessed the bishops are with newness, one could argue that what is new is precipitous decline.

To be fair, it must be admitted that most denominations are in decline; it is a difficult time to be the church.  But, with regard to the extent of decline, it can truly be said that mainstream Lutherans in the USA and Canada are exceptional.


  • Adrian Croft

    The presiding bishops could be compared to philandering husbands who realize their marriages are falling apart but who wouldn’t dream of doing the obvious thing (stop cheating). I watched my own denomination left-wing itself into decline, all the while issuing manifestoes and mission statements and white papers, as if they could block the church exits with mountains of liberal verbiage.

    When someone won’t do the obvious, it’s hard to feel sorry for them.

  • Dan

    As a recent LCMS member (fleeing the United Methodist Church) I do not feel like a “dissident” or an out of the “mainstream” Lutheran. As for being aloof, the LCMS has recently been working quite closely with the Roman Catholic Church on right to life and religious freedom issues. They also are trying to up their game on evangelism and are putting more resources into sending out missionaries. I know ELCA refugees will avoid the LCMS because there are no woman pastors, but after experiencing the disaster of women pastors and overt feminization of the UMC, I find no woman pastors to be a positive aspect of the LCMS.

  • Tim Vernon

    The article makes me think of Diana Bass and her “whistling in the dark” approach to the mainlines’ decline. There’s no way they can do the adult thing and own up to why they’re losing people, so they “spin” with empty phrases like “something new is in store” or “God is calling us down new paths.”

    Once a church proclaims that “there are many ways to God,” it might as well lock its doors. If I’m going to be saved whether I’m a Christian or not, what attraction does Sunday morning hold? The “Nones” are doing the obvious thing that consumers do – eliminate the middleman. Why go to the liberal church down the street when they can easily link up with groups of feminist, abortionists, gay activists, enviro-loons, the usual suspects? Since we’re all going to be saved anyway, why do we need the blessing of a pastor or church on our activists?

    This isn’t rocket science: simply put, the liberal churches serve absolutely no purpose at all, other than gratifying the egos of liberal clergy and bureaucrats. An organization that exists only for its employees is doomed to die.

    • Gabe

      Bingo. Well said, Tim. The liberal can do church on a soft mattress as they can a hard pew. Both require the same amount of sacrifice and dedication.

      • Greg Paley

        A pastor friend refers to the “Church of the Inner Spring” (mattress, that is). Sleeping in on Sunday or listening to a Politically Correct sermon – I’m with the “Nones” on that.

        • Robert Smith

          The Church of the Inner Spring has Pastor Pedic serving if I’m not mistaken.

    • Whit

      Liberal churches do have one purpose – to further the Progressive economic, social and political agenda, and to give that agenda “cover” from supposedly “religious” people. I’m with Dan on the LCMS, and there is hope for the future in ACNA, the EPC and other budding moderate and conservative churches that have preserved their Reformation roots. The best thing that believing Christians can do right now is to flee the liberal denominations for one of these more conservative ones. This deprives the liberal denominations of numbers and money (which they spend on things we don’t support) and strengthens the voices of orthodox Christianity.

  • Didaskalos

    The train wreck has been a long time a’coming. For decades, pastors and leaders and college/seminary professors have been fervent pilgrims on the ELCA Path to Total Spiritual Impotence:

    1. Recoil with horror at the mean things the Christ-rejecting world keeps saying about Bible-honoring Christians and denominations. Ask fellow ELCAnites if there’s a way to escape that contemptuous disparagement.

    2. Experience the Prince of Darkness-engendered epiphany that publicly depreciating the Bible might spur the world to send oodles of warm fuzzies your way.

    3. Test the theory. Write a letter, as ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson did, contending that Christians, Jews and Muslims all worship the same God. Introduce foul-mouthed bully Dan Savage to your denomination’s youth [ http://www.exposingtheelca.com/1/post/2012/11/hating-bible-believing-christians.html ]. Publicly question and depreciate foundational tenets of the Christian faith. Bowdlerize the Bible at your national convention, and double down on that heresy by ordaining homosexuals and lesbians as pastors and bishops. Cozy up to Marcus Borg and the Jesus Seminar. Intimidate pastors and hector parishioners whose biblically informed bound consciences don’t align with your Gnostic antinomianism.

    4. Discover to your great relief that the Christ-spurning world is now your best buddy. Rejoice as LGBT groups praise you to the skies. Delight in invitations by the Democratic Party to be “advisors.” Bask in the glow of media approbation. Enjoy your celebrity status in the faculty lounge. The world’s your oyster. Who needs the praise of God, anyway?

  • Christine

    I recently circled back to LCMS after years of attending ELCA because I believe my church needs to have hard and fast rules, not change with the prevailing winds. I just finished reading Tortured for Christ and I see the ELCA as preparing itself for a role as a state sanctioned church should things get that bad.

  • randy

    Sadly, biased writing is alive and well in the land of religious intolerance. Tell me, how have those mighty pharsaic Lutheran bodies done since leaving the evil
    elca? Check out the growth. Or lack of it. Ask young folk if they want to be part of an anti gay church! The elca will be just fine over time and pharasitic Lutherans can continue to believe only they are going to heaven.

    • Greg Paley

      If the “young folk” you’re referring to are people who don’t wish to live their lives by the ethical teachings in the Bible, then why should we care about losing them? If they want to live just like their nonreligious friends, I guess that means the “Christian” label doesn’t mean much to them, right?

      Several people on this website keep prophesying a big exodus: the young, hip, cool pro-gay folks with leave the mean traditional churches and head for the hip, cool liberal churches – but it’s NOT happening, and it won’t! Check the numbers, folks – 50 years of liberalism, and it’s all been DOWNHILL! Don’t facts mean anything? The only people who are sending this “We better open up to the gays” message are people like Rachel Evans who don’t give two hoots if the evangelical churches decline, her main concern is getting on her soapbox and doing the “I’m so sensitive!” routine.

    • Owen Blake

      Actually, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ and the WordAlone network (out of which later came the North American Lutheran Church) were formed over 10 years ago, primarily because of opposition to CCM (the full communion agreement between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church). The ordination of non-celibate gay clergy, which was approved at the ELCA Churchwide Assembly of 2009, is only one of many reasons individuals and congregations are leaving the ELCA.

      • Tony Stoutenburg

        A little clarification on the history, if I may.

        WordAlone formed in 2000 in response to the ’99 CCM agreement with the ECUSA. This was a rejection of the historic episcopate AND liberal theological drift.

        WordAlone launched Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) in 2001. Today it has about 800 member congregations.

        Circa 2006, WordAlone provided the resources to help found Lutheran CORe (with a number of historic episcopate enthusiasts they had opposed over that issue) primarily around the issue of sexuality.

        After the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and its sexuality … umm … innovations, Lutheran CORe launched NALC in 2010.

        CORe continues as a pan-Lutheran orthodox group.

        WordAlone has all but closed down and folded itself into Sola Publishing, an orthodox Lutheran educational resource provider they launched in ’08 (?).

  • Drifter

    Once again, I am astonished at how people talk about “Lutherans” while fliply dismissing the Lutheran church bodies that actually hold strongly to Lutheran theology. (I am trying to think how, as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, I am “aloof from American life.” I think I’m pretty entangled in it.) Even conservative members of the ELCA–even conservative members of the ELCA who are complaining about that denomination–dismiss the LCMS, the Wisconsin Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the like. These are the “dissident” Lutheran church bodies? Why wouldn’t those in the ELCA who dissent from confessional Lutheranism be the dissidents? I do admire Dr. Benne and second his concerns, but there are some 3 million orthodox Lutherans who may well come to outnumber the non-orthodox in the ELCA, and it seems strange–in a conversation about “Lutheranism”–to ignore them.

  • John Hudson

    Bob also could have mentioned another Lutheran theologian, Michael Root, actually the former dean of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, who recently became a Roman Catholic.

  • Robert Peterson

    The left wing Lutherans have become far more politically correct than Christian. Like the pervert and baby-killer Episcopalians before them, they put liberal politics above the Gospel, and abortion above salvation. The “hail Satan” baby killers of Texas have made the sides very clear – and the Lutherans of my youth have chosen wrongly.

  • Rev. Paul T. McCain

    I grow weary of Dr. Benne’s constant disparaging remarks over against The LCMS. It’s unfortunate that a man who finds himself in his circumstances doesn’t recognize who his friends are and must resort to the worst kind of stereotyping as anyone in the ELCA can muster over against The LCMS.

    It is ironic that the only publishing house that would publish his book on ethics was The LCMS’s publishing house.

    The fact is The LCMS is reaching out across the globe and is being contacted across the globe by Lutherans on every continent looking for a strong, confessing Lutheran witness.

    I think Dr. Benne could accomplish his purpose of promoting the NALC without resorting, consistently, to bashing The LCMS.

    Emerging, small Lutheran churches like the NALC need all the help they can get and if the only way they can flourish is by taking swipes at The LCMS, that is a pretty poor reflection on the statement of churchmanship among them.

    • Owen Blake

      Robert Benne would be remiss if he put the LCMS and WELS in the same category as the NALC or LCMC. Missouri is not merely orthodox, it’s fundamentalist. It insists on creation in six 24-hour days as a matter of dogma; and that’s another reason most ELCA refugees are likely to avoid it.

    • Pastor David

      Agreed, but…
      As pastor of an elca congregation, with orthodox roots, we use the ECV Bible and Concordia material almost exclusively. My quarrel with the LCMS is the intransigence of some of the leadership and my perception of creeping “born-againism” (Arminianism) into the Concordia educational material. Many of my friends in the STS, who are LCMS pastors, agree.
      That being said, though there are issues on which we disagree (infant Holy Communion, ordination of women, etc.) they pale in comparison to the elca heresy thrust upon us all.

  • John Vaci

    Jesus wept as he rode up to Jerusalem because they would not repent. Repentance is not only un-American it is also not new. Even if the rocks cried out or if the dead spoke they still would not hear–dust off your shoes and move on. Preach the gospel and baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit.

  • Robert

    The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) also toyed with Lutheran union, which is far from the ascription of being “aloof.”

    The LCMS and the American Lutheran Church (ALC) began fellowship talks in 1938. After the LCMS compromised its position on prayer fellowship, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS) and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), which with the LCMS belonged to the Synodical Conference, terminated fellowship with the LCMS in 1955 and 1961, respectively.

    The LCMS and the ALC were joined in altar and pulpit fellowship 1969-1981, which predates the 1988 merger of those church bodies eventually becoming the ELCA.

    That includes the ALC.

  • Hal

    It seems to me that the unique nature of Christian theology has everything to do with exclusion and inclusion.
    Anyone can accept the gift and grace of God, but it is very specific, unique and costly. Why would God become man, suffer for the sin of all humanity and then rise from the dead if all ‘paths’ lead to God?
    Either the story of Jesus is true, or it is not. If it is true, then he is the Way, the Truth and Life and no man comes to the Father but by him, or it is all bunkum.
    This gift is open to all, freely available, and by the indwelling Spirit of God, life changing and powerful.
    The fruit of that Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control! Who doesn’t want that?
    Plus eternal life.
    Changing this unique and very exclusive message leads exactly no where, or perhaps, everywhere but where you want to go.
    It has always been this way, and obviously, still is!

  • bob

    Funny, how the ELCA unified with Episcopalians and have gone the *same* direction they have; down, down, down. They are in “communion” as they agree completely on points of doctrine, which is to say there are none. It means nothing be a member of either group.

    • jim

      Down down down all mainline denominations are going.

  • Jim Olson

    Being very involved in the ELCA for 65 years it was surprisingly easy to leave because our pastors of the politically correct sermons. Now we heard that some of the books should be thrown out. The Bible is no longer the ultimate authority and the list goes on. When we questioned him he became defensive. The ELCA does not like to be shown up and we have found that they can be vindictive in their dealings with those how choose to go elsewhere.

  • Park Slope Pubby

    I’m with this article in spirit, but my own experience is quite different. I attend an ECLA church in Brooklyn. We are growing. We do everything that is “wrong” by this article’s standards. We have a pastor who is way too liberal for my tastes. BUT: we get lots of people in their 20’s or 30’s who join the church becuase of its liberal attitude toward gay marriage, for instance. I’m just reporting what I see.

    • Katherine Harms

      How is it a gain to add members who like your church’s approval of unbiblical ideas? The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. No church has any business pretending to consecrate an unbiblical union. Increasing the numbers in the pews is pointless unless the people are working within the kingdom of God against the kingdom of hell. The gates of hell will not close against those who are working on its agenda.

      • Chris Deitman

        I’m not sure if the bible says “homosexuality is a sin”…I believe in this instance that love triumphs law in this matter of homosexuality. Do you think Jesus would have condemned the homosexuals? If you think he wouldn’t have, why did Jesus break the social barriers with the Samaritan when Jesus is a Jew? Bad is those days Samaritans couldn’t interact with Jews. The Samaritans are like the homosexuals.

        • Chris Deitman

          The above comment should say “If you think he would* have…”

          • Kay Glines

            There is no comparison. People were born Samaritans, that is an ethnicity, not a sexual behavior. This is just as silly as the gay activists who compare their situation to black slavery. Jesus set a very high standard for sexual morality, he did not condone sexual sin. People who read the Bible regularly are much more familiar with the teachings of Jesus than are people who only pick and choose verses to support their political agenda.

  • George Villa

    Your article is full of a lot of anglo-white lofty “toro popo.” The ELCA’s main problem is an inherent and institutionalized racism that keeps out the ethnic specific voices. An anglo-white male clergy still dominates our denomination and the same “white ghettoism” in the face of a changing national, regional and local demographic that marginalized the Republican Party in the 2012 elections is the same reason the ELCA is in decline. Look at the recent synodical bishop elections and ask yourself, “hmmm – what’s wrong with this picture?” Our synods and national structures do not want to hear the ethnic voice nor see an ethnic face unless it becomes absolutely necessary. Our problem is not an issue of theology – it’s an issue of “luke warm faith, it is neither cold nor hot” and we certainly don’t want to be moved from our ethnocentric perception of what our world (country) really is like.

    • Eric Lytle

      That is total and utter BS. Go to the websites for the national offices of the ELCA or any of the liberal denominations, or the websites for their seminaries, you will serious OVER-representation of ethnic minorities. These denominations have been over backwards to outdo secular liberals in Political Correctness, and what have they gained from it? More ethnic members? Nope. And FEWER white members.

      Guess which churches are attracting ethnic minorities, especially Hispanics: yeah, the evil evangelicals, that “all-white” herd the left loves to diss.

      Before you go into hissyfit mode, check your facts.

    • Greg Paley

      There are numerous predominantly black denominations in the US: the AME, CME, National Baptists, Church of God in Christ, etc. Are they knocking themselves out to attract white members? I don’t think so – and I don’t care. People on the left are always sniffing around for conspiracies, looking for “discrimination” or “exclusion,” even if there is no conspiracy. Here’s a news flash, George Vila: there is no conspiracy. Some churches are all-white, some are all-black. Big deal. Going to an all-white church doesn’t make you a “racist,” nor does going to an all-black church. People have the right to form free associations. What would you like to see? Government intervention to make sure there is “racial balance” in the churches? I’m betting the folks who go to an all-black church aren’t there because they are “excluded” from white churches, they are in the black church because they like it.

      Also, some historical data: most Lutherans in America are the descendants of people who were:
      Swedes
      Germans
      Danes
      Norwegians
      So, amazingly, most American Lutherans are white. A conspiracy? I don’t think so.

      I feel sorry for people who have to get their kicks sniffing out racism. Get a life, folks.

  • Gregg Smith

    Failing to recognize that God and the Christian religion are what made this country great is to be historically ignorant. The United States would not exist without Divine Intervention. Easy salvation has been a hope of the uninformed since Paul penned his epistles. Paul railed against this heresy consistently throughout his letters and his ministry.

  • J Franklin

    What is stopping black churches from broadening their base to attract ‘White Flight’ from liberal mainline denominations?

  • Eugene Hernandez

    My family came to the Lutheran Church (LCMS) in the mid 50’s, our congregation was 100% Mexican Americans with a German pastor. We had school (K-8) and the student body was all Mexican American. When my oldest brother graduated from the eighth grade, there was a huge problem, the Lutheran High School just down the street didn’t really accept brown students. When our Pastor pushed the issue, the main question was “just how dark is he”, lucky for my brother he was light skin and finally accepted as a student. My point is that Lutherans as I have experienced them are very ethnocentric, they cam to America as ethnic churches and remained such for a very long time. There idea of being an inclusive, has always meant bringing in people of color and transforming them into their own image. Decline or not, the ELCA is on the right track and something new is coming. To understand the change that is coming, one need only look at the demographic data projections for the next 50 years.

  • John Petty

    Should be re-titled: “Mourning the lost world of the 1950’s.”

    • Eric Lytle

      Yes, that was a horrible period wasn’t it? Low crime rates, low divorce rates, very few abortions. Horrid. Also, we didn’t have AIDS. Or rap music.

      My main regret about the 1950s is that I wasn’t alive then.

    • Alex Soderberg

      When I hear a left-wing pastor make a snarky remark about traditional Christians, I’m tempted to ask: Is conforming your church to the secular world resulting in growth? The answer is inevitably “No.” That would put the snarky remark in the category of “envy.”

      If you choose to think of evangelicals as “reactionary” or “fearful of change,” that’s your right. Given my Smartphone and various other electronic devices, that word just doesn’t apply. I’m not “stuck in the 1950s,” I just happen to believe that God’s moral standards are the same today as they were in 1950, or 1050, or 150. If you marry the spirit of the age, you become a widow. Mocking evangelicals is not going to help your own church grow.

  • Sheila

    Sounds like a lot of Lutherans are personally edging closer to Rome.

    • Pastor David

      Not Rome as much as Orthodoxy – both Western and Eastern Rite.

    • Marco Edwardsen

      Some have gone roman, but my WELS church has many new/old members who left the RCC and who now enjoy somethng they never had–Bible study. .

  • Charles

    I was Baptized in the LCA, and left in 1988 with the ELCA merger. They are now in inter-communion with Calvinist churches, and so left a unique legacy and become just another mainline protestant church. For years after I attended Continuing Anglican churches, who split from the Episcopla church (also in decline) for the same reason – They preach “a God without wrath bringing men (persons) without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

  • Don Omey

    We too left the Methodist Church for the LCMS because of the leftward slant of the church. Methodist church hierarchy is just short of being all out communist. There seems to be no left-wing issue they don’t endorse, from welfare to all the sex perversions. They don’t believe in self-discipline.

  • Donnie

    When George Tiller was murdered, I remember hearing he was a deacon in his local ELCA. Pretty much said everything I needed to know.

    If a baby killer like him feels comfortable in an ELCA church, then I want nothing to do with them.

    • Adrian Croft

      That’s true about Tiller being a deacon. Also, the LCMS had booted him out for being an abortionist – or, to put it more bluntly, a mass murderer. It says a lot about the ELCA that they gave a welcome to that creep. Odd to think of a congregation that would accept “blood money” into its treasury.

  • Craig S. Felde

    The only problem with the more conservative Lutheran Churches is the very evident trend toward considering any science or scientific thinking to be some sort of evil. The ELCA will continue to lose members because of its warm and fuzzy, no discipline, no cross Theology, but the Conservatives will also continue their slide by considering the Word of The Lord to be a Science book instead of the Inspired Word Of God to His Children. The people of God’s world are learning more and more about the Glory of His creation, and the attempt by Conservatives and Biblical Literalists to crush intellectual inquiry by making it Blasphemous will only accelerate that decline. It is not only the warm and fuzzy left that has its head in the sand, but the self-righteous Conservative Right. I have an idea…why not read Proverbs, and then the Gospel of John, then Romans. Maybe you just might get a clue from Christ.

    • Eric Lytle

      That doesn’t describe any Lutherans I ever met. Or an evangelicals either. There are a lot of Christians who believe the universe was created in six days – however, those Christians exist not in the real world but in a Manichean fantasy world of the left’s imagination, where enlightened liberals live in fear of backward, medieval Christians. there are really only 2 sides in the science-v-religion debate: the side that believes in a Creator, and the side that doesn’t. I hardly think the word “self-righteous” applies to people who happen to believe in a Creator. The anti-Christian crowds likes to beat that dead horse, the old “Christians are so stupid they think the universe was created in six days” routine. It’s been a long time since the Scopes trial, give it a rest.

      • Owen Blake

        The Missouri Synod’s “Brief Statement of 1932,” which you can google for yourself, says: “We teach that God has created heaven and earth, and that in the manner AND IN THE SPACE OF TIME recorded in the Holy Scriptures…IN SIX DAYS.” (emphasis added). Creation in six days is not just a straw man created by anti-Christians.

        • Owen Blake

          The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod’s statement, “This We Believe” (online at http://www.wels.net) says: “The creation happened in the course of six consecutive days of normal length….”

          • Eric Lytle

            I don’t know any Wisconsin Synod Lutherans, and since that denomination is less than half a million, while the ELCA and LCMS are both over 2 million each, I’ll stick by what I said. I know the LCMS doesn’t mandate belief in six-day creation, and I’m sure the ELCA wouldn’t even require an ordinand to even believe in a Creator, so long as he supported gay marriage.

        • Eric Lytle

          Two local LCMS pastors said that is not a mandate that applies now, that the only requirement is that God is creator.

          Do you get some pleasure out of trying to make all Christians look like neanderthals, or just Lutherans? That is an odd way to pass the time.

    • Ben Welliver

      I’ve met some grads of the Lutheran Sch of Theo, they can be pretty condescending. I think the seminary convinces them that out in the hinterlands there are all these neanderthal churches that they consider beneath them. To the extent that the mainline clergy believe in salvation, it is salvation by intellect. God will have to say them because they are just so darn smart.

      I’m glad to see the formation of the Lutheran Church NA, I think a lot of the more faithful pastors will end up there. Maybe they will establish their own seminary, hopefully a long way from that liberal vipers’ nest in Chicago.

  • Sasha Bill Kwapinski

    Sounds like the ELCA is on its way to becoming an ecclesiastical flophouse like the Unitarian Church.

    • jim

      At least the Unitarians are accepting of ALL people.

  • Raul Alessandri

    Enthusiastic discussion. But I was reading this little book, not well known, that said: “…charging them in the sight of the Lord not to dispute with words, for that is useless, leading to the ruin of the listeners”,and also “… the Church of the living God, the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. Does anybody believe that any of these letters are the pillar and mainstay of the truth?
    The wisdom of God, being more powerful than any person’s, will lead us to the whole truth, which may appear hidden to the eyes of too many of us.

  • Pr. Mark Schroeder

    I grew-up in the LCMS, left it during the Schism in ’73, went to Seminex, 25 years then as an ELCA pastor, fighting all of what Bob Benne wrote about. It was this quote from Walther’s Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, that convinced me to leave. I have been back in the LCMS for 3 years now.
    Thesis XX: “…the Word of God is not rightly divided when a person’s salvation is made to depend on his association with the visible orthodox church and when salvation is denied to every person who errs in any article of faith.”

    It is…an awful mistake to claim that men can be saved only in the Lutheran Church. No one must be induced to join the Lutheran Church because he thinks that only in that way he can get into the Church of God. There are still Christians in the Reformed Church, among the Methodists, yea, among the papists. We have this precious promise in Is. 55, 11: ‘My Word shall not return unto Me void.” Wherever the Word of God is proclaimed and confessed or even recited during the service, the Lord is gathering a people for Himself. The Roman Church, for instance, still confesses that Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross to redeem the world. That is truth sufficient to bring a man to the knowledge of salvation. Whoever denies this fact is forced to deny also that there are Christians in some Lutheran communities in which errors have cropped out. But there are always some children of God in these communities because they have the Word of God, which is always bearing fruit in converting some souls to God.
    The false doctrine concerning the Church which we are studying involves a fatal confounding of Law and Gospel. While the Gospel requires faith in Jesus Christ, the Law makes all sorts of demands upon men. Setting up a demand of some kind as necessary to salvation in addition to faith, the acceptance of the Gospel promises, means to commingle Law and Gospel. I belong to the Lutheran Church for the sole reason that I want to side with the truth. I quit the Church to which I belong when I find that it harbors errors with which I do not wish to be contaminated. I do not wish to become a partaker of other men’s sins, and by quitting a heretical community I confess the pure and unadulterated truth. For Christ says: Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.” Matt. 10, 32. 33. Again, Paul writes distinctly to Timothy: “Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord nor of me, his prisoner.” 2 Tim. 1, 8.
    …if I perceive the error of my heretical community and do not forsake it, I shall be lost because, though seeing the error, I would not abandon it. I can still remember the time when I became a believer. Then I also joined the unionists. Some persons approached me with the intention of bringing me into the Lutheran Church. But I told them that I was a believer and did not choose to belong to a Church that claimed to be the alone-saving Church. Afterwards I found some good writings, which showed me that the Lutheran Church claims to be the only Church that has the pure doctrine, but does not claim to be the alone-saving Church, and admits that men can be saved in the sects if they are not aware of their error. As soon as I learned this, I quit the unionistic community and joined the Lutherans. I had long known that the Lutheran Church has the truth, but I refused to endorse the aforementioned papistic principle. Then I understood that one does not have to condemn any one who is in error regarding some article of the Creed, but only those who have seen their error and still want to abide in it.

  • A Sinner

    I was born and raised in a Catholic family and when I met my wife, who was raised in a half Catholic half ELCA Lutheran family, we married in her grandmothers ELCA church. I was not used to a female pastor and have never agreed with that but due to a few circumstances we were married by her. Pastor Mindy, GOD rest her soul, was very nice and loved to have us in church because we were young and brought life into the church, the problem is the Pastor took our younger age for granted and assumed we were modernist NYC liberals, so after hearing the pro homosexual propaganda, and this was back in 2005, for one too many times I left and found an LCMS church where we flourished, learned our bible and became part of a family. We then moved and found an incredible WELS church and are still members to this day and we are very comfortable raising our children in WELS. I’ve never been spiritually happier and I love that my 6 year old looks foward to going to church and bible study. My point is we are a bible believing family an absolutely LOVE both the LCMS and WELS and we pray they come together so we can show everyone who the real Lutherans are, everytime we hear the news or someone talk about the “Lutheran Church” its always ELCA they go to or quote. ELCA is neither Christian or Lutheran but they are projected as mainstream Lutherans. My life has changed and has gotten much better because GOD led me to both the LCMS and WELS. I cannot stand the politics of either synod and do not want to hear about it. Our WELS church is growing and new members are traveling a good distance to hear GODs word with us. WELS Lutherans are the most bashed and attacked but more and more people are realizing we arent bad, we just strictly adhere to GODS word. God bless you all.

  • Beth

    Come home to the Orthodox Church where it all began and still continues after 2000 years. There are no quibbles about the Scriptures but there is great joy in worship and life in the Risen Christ. Put worldly cares behind you, find peace in what was given to us all in the beginning. With love in Christ, Beth

  • Kurt Johnson

    As a Lutheran seminary professor in the late 1960s, Robert Benne put a lot of his students on the social-justice path before he did an about-face and couldn’t hang in there with the civil rights movement after MLK Jr was assassinated. He even moved to the position of saying that free markets could replace agape’ love. If Dr. Benne really disagrees with going down the path that led to the ELCA’s emphases, perhaps he should hold himself accountable for his role in sending sending seminary students down that path.