First Things First
Since the ACELC began its work of encouraging our Synod to honestly address the theological and practical errors that sadly have divided our fellowship, we've discovered that many have been more than willing to criticize our efforts. The one, overriding criticism that seems to surface most often is that the ACELC is “disturbing the peace” of our synodical institution by pointing out the problems we must resolve if our Synod is to be truly united.
It is odd, indeed, to be accused of causing divisions when we are, in fact, seeking only unity. It has been our experience that when issues such as closed communion, contemporary worship, or any of the other 10 areas identified by the ACELC as problematic are brought up, that a common response has been to call us “trouble-makers,” “disturbers of the peace,” or “divisive." It appears that the only acceptable kind of “peace” proposed by those who support variances of doctrine and practice in the Synod is that we in the ACELC simply leave well enough alone, and cease all criticism and any attempts to establish a meaningful dialog. This (in their estimation, I suspect) is the only way bring about peace to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Of course, we do not believe this to be true at all, for the reality is that agreeing to disagree is no agreement at all.
Our Synod was roundly critical of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) when they used a model known as “Reconciled Diversity” to achieve “unity” between church bodies of widely divergent doctrine and practice. In its simplest form, "Reconciled Diversity" is a model for church fellowship that seeks to find whatever common doctrines may exist between those church bodies who are attempting to establish pulpit and altar fellowship with one another. It simply declares that those issues which cannot be reconciled to be “non-divisive.” By using this model the ELCA is able to welcome with open arms both pastors and communicants to each church's communion rails and pulpits (including members and pastors of the United Methodist Church; Presbyterian Church, USA; United Church of Christ; Reformed Church of America; Moravian Church; and Episcopal Church, USA).
While our Synod was right in criticizing the ELCA for this method of “establishing” church fellowship, the truth of the matter is that we are doing the exact same thing in our own church body. We are also seeking the lowest common denominator in our doctrine and practice when we insist on agreeing to disagree on issues we are not able to agree on. In effect, the LCMS is also practicing "Reconciled Diversity!" It would appear that now the greatest “sin” a person can commit in our Synod is "rocking the boat" and "disturbing the Synod" with the truth! Maintaining “peace” within the institution of the Synod now appears to be of paramount importance, rather than making sure our doctrine and practice conform to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions. May God forgive us for this!
The ACELC seeks to be a voice for the truth of God's Word and its correct exposition, namely, our Lutheran Confessions. We in the ACELC actually believe God's Word speaks clearly concerning each and every area of concern outlined in our original “Letter of Fraternal Admonition” (which was sent to every congregation of the Synod in July of 2010). We support all efforts to achieve a resolution to each and every one of the errors identified in this document, and we are foolish enough to think God can actually accomplish that among us! How can we have such confidence? Because we believe God's Word can and will change hearts and conform them to His truth.
So, "first things first" means that maintaining the peace of the institution called the Missouri Synod must take a back seat to the clear teaching of God's Word. "First things first" means that we must stick with what Holy Scripture says, and if doing that causes a disturbance in the Synod, then so be it! "First things first" means that the truth of God is more important than maintaining an illusion of peace which is no peace at all. If we in the Synod are willing to put "first things first," then (under God's grace), we are confident He will bring about a peace in our Synod that is acceptable in His sight.
Rev. Richard A. Bolland
Assistant Pastor - Emeritus
Gloria Christi Lutheran Church
If you would like to assist the ACELC in this effort you may encourage your congregation to join as a full Member of the ACELC. As an individual you may join as an Associate Member. You may also support our work by making a donation online. Or, if none of those options work for you, we would like to ask that you remember our efforts in your prayers – that all we do would be pleasing to God and beneficial for the building of up His kingdom of grace.