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
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!