National Lutheran News

NALC considers seminary education, global partners, future directions

Two Lutheran groups, Lutheran CORE and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC), met in their annual conventions in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, August 6-9, including a joint theological conference, as well as an annual meetings for each of the groups. These two centrist groups were formed after the decision by the ELCA in 2009 to allow for non-celibate gay pastors in committed, long-term relationships.

Lutheran CORE is a pan-Lutheran renewal group, while the NALC is a new, separate Lutheran church body (organized in 2010). While distinct, the two groups do work closely together in a number of different areas.

The Rev. David Wendel, assistant to the bishop of the North American Lutheran Church, addresses the group’s August 2013 convocation. Photo provided by North American Lutheran Church

A NALC proposal suggested the establishment of two different houses of study that would relate to existing Christian seminaries.

Lutheran CORE numbers some 5,000 people and 400 congregations in North America, offering services, connections, and common commitments to them. According to its website, it wishes to “stay focused on our Lord’s Great Commission and to uphold the final authority of the Bible on all matters of faith and life.” CORE is not a separate denomination, but works to unite “orthodox Lutherans” of whatever synodical affiliation. Lutheran CORE was first to hold its annual meeting and to transact the necessary organizational business.

This year’s annual theological conference, co-sponsored by CORE and NALC, was held under the theme “On Being the Church in These Precarious Times.” The keynote address, entitled “The Church of the Triune God,” for the one-and-a-half event was offered by Carl Braaten. Other speakers included Stephan Turnbull, David Yeago, Nathan Yoder, James Nestingen, Frank Senn, and Sarah Hinlicky Wilson.

NALC ratifies connection to Ethipian and Tanzanian churches

The NALC is a new but growing Lutheran denomination, which currently numbers more than 360 congregations and 130,000 members in North America, under the leadership of Bishop John Bradosky. At its annual convocation, the new group met to consider a number of important issues and items of business for the denomination, including the usual elections and approval of budgets, which anticipated $1.5 million in operations, and $450,000 for church extension and theological education.

Members also elected two new individuals to the NALC executive council, as well as other officers. The convention also set a goal of 1,517 total congregations by 2017, suggesting a need for outreach and growth.

Delegates of the new church body discussed several issues of importance for its future directions. The NALC is already a Full Communion partner with the Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church Mekane Yesus, and at this convention approved a “Memorandum of Understanding” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, which is an initial step toward closer relations.

A status report on the NALC application to join the Lutheran World Federation was offered, noting that this process takes time. The convention also heard about a new program on discipleship which the NALC will have with the Navigators, a Christian disciple-training organization.

Perhaps the most momentous and substantive discussion surrounded a report which proposed the establishment of an NALC Seminary. The proposal suggested the establishment of two different NALC Houses of Study to relate to existing Christian seminaries, one with a branch of non-denominational Gordon-Conwell Seminary in South Carolina, and another with Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Pennsylvania.

The proposal elicited a spirited debate among the nearly 700 convention delegates, with appreciations for the plan and reservations being openly discussed. Though numerous speakers worried about educating their Lutheran ministerial candidates at non-Lutheran (especially Episcopalian) institutions, in the end the convention strongly approved the plan.

The next CORE/NALC convention was set for Charleston, South Carolina, in late July 2014.

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