National Lutheran News

ELS considers appropriate worship orders

The Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) held its annual synod convention June 21-25, 2009, at Bethany Lutheran College and Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary in Mankato, Minnesota. ELS conventions are very process-oriented gatherings, according to synod secretary, the Rev. Craig Ferkenstad, Norseland Lutheran Parish, St. Peter, Minnesota.

Indeed, on the first day of the convention, delegates met in pre-assigned “floor committees” to review the reports of various organizations within the ELS. After much discussion, each floor committee proposed resolutions to put before the entire body during the remainder of the convention.

One such resolution put forward by the floor committee (Resolution 1: “Worship in Home Mission Congregations”) “encourage[d] the Board for Home Missions to continue to uphold” the recommendation of the bylaws that the appropriate orders of worship, “in order to preserve unity in liturgical forms and ceremonies,” be limited to the Order of Worship based on the Danish- Norwegian liturgy of 1685 or the Common Order of Worship for home missions.

Seminary president Gaylin Schmeling raised concerns about unintended consequences. “Five years from now, will it be allowed to say that we can’t use the WELS [Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod] hymnal?” he asked.

The Rev. Dr. J. Kincaid Smith, pastor emeritus, Mankato, explained the need for the resolution. “For conservative, confessional Lutherans, the last couple decades [have seen] reform theology creep into our churches.” He said that for the sake of unity, this reminder was necessary.

“No real definition of contemporary worship has been laid down,” replied the Rev. Paul Zager, Twin Lakes, Minnesota. “We need a common definition.” Eventually it was determined that the bylaws dealt sufficiently with this matter, and the resolution was stricken.

In other action, “Thoughts of Faith,” a church-related organization supporting work in eastern Europe, was brought within the ELS structure. The ELS now has mission fields in seven countries — Peru, Chile, India, Korea, Ukraine, Latvia, and the Czech Republic.

The convention also decided to keep two distinct boards for education, even though “due to financial restrictions, the board [of the Lutheran School Association] has been unable to achieve [numeric goals] as great anticipated.” A mandated restructuring will address school governance in next years’ strategic planning process, according to Ferkenstad.