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What's Up With The NALC Or The North American Lutheran Church?

So, apparently, there's a Lutheran church body out there that I wasn't even aware of before today.

I didn't go looking for it either. Instead, I was just doing my usual surfin' on the 'Net and that's when I came across one particular Lutheran church body that I've never heard of before.

It's called the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) and, apparently, there are two member congregations in my local area.

A quick visit to their website paints a beautiful picture of them being a truly Confessional body of believers (although the misinterpretation and emphasis of the so-called "Great Commission" is concerning as is the "renewal" language all over the place).

The more time I spent on their website, the more I began to wonder if I had just found spiritual gold! I realize there is no "perfect" church, but in a part of the country where finding a faithful Lutheran parish is next to impossible, and finding one that regularly practices the Divine Liturgy is even harder, I was pleasantly surprised to see all these wonderful pictures of liturgical church services, vestments, altars, baptismal fonts and language that insinuated this was a group that wanted to remain true to her confessional roots.  

Could this be the answer to my prayers of asking the Lord to help me and my family find a more faithful church to call home? Naturally, that prompted me to ask, "What's up with the NALC or the North American Lutheran Church that I can't learn from their website?"

Thankfully, I discovered that this question was answered by the fine folks over at Worldview Everlasting in response to someone who was wondering the very same thing as me.



My question concerns the NALC and Lutheran CORE which have recently been formed as the result of the ELCA’s decision to begin ordaining homosexual clergy. What are the primary differences between the NALC and the LCMS? Obviously women in ministry, but beyond this, is there hope for unity between the LCMS and NALC? The LCMS on paper seems to have beliefs fairly similar to WELS concerning women in ministry, but in practice we are very similar (women speak and teach publicly in most LCMS churches). The NALC has reaffirmed adherence to the Confessions and a strong belief on the authority of the word of God. -D

Glorious Lutheran Alphabet Soup (Just Like Mom Used To Make)

D, 
Thank you for the question, I think in order to appropriately answer the question, we need to clarify a few things. 
First, I think we should focus primarily on the fact that NALC as CORE is really not a church body, but an association of congregations and individuals seeking renewal in the ELCA. With that said, at the outset, we ought be very clear that there are many discussions going on within both of these groups about many of the points which follow. 
Second, I’m not sure if it is possible to “affirm” his statement that we are similar in practice to the NALC. I would say that the majority of congregations in the LCMS do not allow women to speak or teach publicly in the way that Scripture forbids (eg. there is a very clear distinction between being an officiant, preacher, or liturgical assistant in the Divine service and being a Kindergarten Sunday School teacher). 
Third, and this is primarily what I’ve gathered by talking to pastors in the NALC, that the status of Scripture and the Confessions is no different than it was in the ELCA in 1988. In other words, they allow for historical criticism and have a “quatenus” subscription to the Confessions and see them as “valid interpretations.” A “quatenus” subscription to the Lutheran Confessions is one that says that they accept the Lutheran Confessions “in so far as” they are in line with Scripture. This is in contrast to the view of historic Confessional Lutheranism which subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions “quia” “because” they are a true exposition of Scripture. With the former, it really amounts to a very subjective judgement of the Confessions with the result that any real authority or uniformity is lost. It should also be noted that this was the exact same language the ELCA used and still uses. 
In addition to the clarifications (which also point out where the difference really lies),there is a huge difference in what is necessary for fellowship, which inevitably comes from their pietistic roots (I do not intend the word “pietistic” to be derogatory, but merely descriptive of their historical roots) which see a distinction in doctrine as “essential/fundamental” and “secondary” (or some other term). 
Finally, that the NALC still has women pastors isn’t one isolated error, but really touches upon errors in the doctrines of Christology, sin, and justification. Whether this is a declared error or a flecitious inconsistency I am not sure. It is probably a mix of both, with variance from person to person. The a NALC pastor near me delivered a paper calling into question (from a Biblical and catholic standpoint) the doctrine and practice of women pastors. 
Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor Messiah Lutheran Church La Crescent, MN http://www.messiahlacrescent.org


Well, I guess that answers that question, huh?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, it just goes to show you that just because a church says it's a "Confessional Lutheran Church" (or even just a "Lutheran Church") doesn't necessarily mean that it's doctrine and practice matches its public confession of the historical and orthodox Christian (a.k.a. Lutheran) faith.



NOTE: I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or a Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this note, I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little over a year ago. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries. I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a dude's diary in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!

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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

3 comments

  1. I'm sorry for this criticism because you seem like a humble and sincere individual, but to rip the NALC as bunch of hypocrites and non-confessional in that they proclaim one thing but do another, I find a little disconcerting. I almost want to ask if you think I'm not a Lutheran Christian for being a member? I'm just another lowly layman myself but if you were to attend an NALC service as long as the particular pastor was male (the only correct conclusion), I doubt you would see or hear much difference between that and the LCMS. If I were in the LCMS, I would not leave to join the NALC and if I lived where there was and LCMS church nearby I would attend but I believe there are many in the NALC committed to the Lutheran Confessions and the initial point of divergence being born into a more Scandinavian tradition instead of a German one. Also you may want to google LCMS NALC relations to see that the two denominations have come together on a variety of issues.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous,

    Thanks for writing, but I think if you go back and reread my commentary here, then you'll see that my critique was rather glowing and positive for the first half of the piece, and it even led me to dig deeper to see if I could find the answers I was looking for.

    It was the response from an LCMS Pastor published by Worldview Everlasting that raised the legitimate questions that it did. Now, that being said, I think our Book of Concord/Confessions are quite clear that there are true Christians in all denominations. So, no, I don't think that you're "not a Lutheran Christian for being a member" (how can we even know the sheep from the goats anyway, right?).

    Plus, as the Pastor put it, "Finally, that the NALC still has women pastors isn’t one isolated error, but really touches upon errors in the doctrines of Christology, sin, and justification. Whether this is a declared error or a flecitious inconsistency I am not sure. It is probably a mix of both, with variance from person to person."

    In short, it sounds like you are a part of the remnant that God has preserved for Himself within the NALC and so I will gladly pray for Him to continue to help you to remain a faithful Confessional Lutheran who's willing to share with others what it is you believe, teach, and confess (and why you believe, teach, and confess it) despite being in the face of certain obvious errors accepted and promoted by the NALC.

    Thanks for reading and for writing. I hope you will continue to do so, my friend.

    All The Best,
    JKR

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you for sharing this. A friend of mine belongs to a tiny ELCA congregation, but he is also part of the (as you describe it) "remnant" who do believe in the Scriptures and salvation by faith. His church is unhappy with the ELCA and is considering joining the NALC, so I was wondering about it. Thank you for this article -- it was very helpful! God's blessings in your journey as a "newly converted confessional Lutheran." I am blessed to have been born into confessional Lutheranism, and I long for all Christians to enjoy the beautiful truth of God's pure Word found therein, and I am so happy that the Lord has led you into it!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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