National Lutheran News

New North American Lutheran church body launched

A new Lutheran denominational body was launched by a vote of enthusiastic participants August 27 in Columbus, Ohio. The new North American Lutheran Church (NALC) has 18 founding congregations, with organizational leaders expecting about 100 by the end of 2010.

The decision to form the new church body was made at the annual Convocation of Lutheran CORE, which attracted more than 1,100 Lutherans to Grove City Church of the Nazarene near Columbus.

The Convocation adopted a constitution and elected provisional leaders for the NALC. The Rev. Paull Spring of State College, Pennsylvania, was elected as bishop of the NALC. Spring previously served as the bishop of the Northwestern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for 14 years.

Spring and other church leaders were elected for one-year terms. Representatives of those congregations that join the NALC will elect new leaders at the church body’s first annual meeting next year (time not yet determined). Spring has said that he will not be available for re-election.

“We have a great opportunity before us. We not only want to look back toward the past, but to look ahead to the mission God has given us — to confess Christ faithfully, to witness to others, and to grow in God’s mission. This is our opportunity now in Lutheran CORE and in the North American Lutheran Church,” Spring told convention participants.

“The NALC will embody the center of Lutheranism in America. The NALC will uphold confessional principles dear to Lutherans, including a commitment to the authority of the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions,” said the Rev. Mark Chavez of Landisville, Pennsylvania, director of Lutheran CORE.

In the midst of transition

Many structural decisions are yet to be made. “There is definitely an element of being a work in progress, of [most decisions] being provisional,” explained Ryan Schwarz, a Washington, D.C., lay leader who was elected vice president of the NALC. But a sense of direction seems to be emerging.

Leaders within NALC are working on plans for ecumenical activity, social service, and mission programs. “We will make an application to join the Lutheran World Federation,” Bishop Spring told Metro Lutheran. “We already feel a strong connection to African Lutheran bodies.” He added that NALC may also apply to the International Lutheran Council, a body that includes both the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and the American Association of Lutheran Churches from the United States.

The newly elected NALC bishop explained that it will also be possible to affiliate dually with the NALC and Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC), an association of Lutheran congregations that have been meeting since 2001. “I don’t know exactly how it will work, but there is no reason it cannot be done,” said Spring.

“As you make your stand today, I pledge that your siblings in LCMC will stand beside you,” the Rev. Larry Lindstrom of Farmersville, Ohio, chair of the LCMC Board of Trustees, told convention attendees. “I anticipate many congregations will choose to join both LCMC and the NALC.”

The NALC will also consider joining social ministries, such as Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran World Relief, and possibly Lutheran Services in America, that will ally the new body with other Lutheran groups, according to Schwarz. “We will do what helps us effectively carry out the Great Commission,” he added.

“We’ve tried to build into our structure capabilities for growth,” Schwarz explained, since the group is so new. “We’ve proposed regional deaneries or districts, headed by normal parish pastors, to encourage close [local] contact.”

Rebecca Florence Miller, a parish pastor of a two-point parish in Edinburg, North Dakota, participated in the convocation and convention. “When I first became a pastor, I was so excited about sharing the news of the Resurrection, but my spirit has been worn down by the bureaucracy,” she said, noting also many positive aspects of support she has received. “But the support and connection at Lutheran CORE is very important.” She looks forward to future clergy gatherings of Lutheran CORE.

“It’s a tough time no matter what side you are on,” she said.

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