July 8, 2011 - Reflections on Two Years' Work

 
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Reflection on Two Years’
of Work on the ACELC
 
It was on August 6, 2009, that six men and one woman gathered at the Country Kitchen restaurant in Columbia, Missouri, to discuss forming a group within The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod which would honestly address the many errors in doctrine and practice which had been, and continue to divide our church body.
 
This meeting was the culmination of many months of previous internet discussion with about 30 or so Confessional members of our Synod who had discussed what might be the best way forward to accomplish the goal of unifying our Synod in doctrine and practice. We were especially mindful of what had not worked before. With the best of intentions many had tried to influence our Synod by forming groups of individuals which had attempted to address legitimate concerns with the administration of our Synod. Without exception, they all were completely ignored, or if they did garner any attention, it was usually of a disciplinary nature. Those of us at the Country Kitchen in Columbia that day were determined to do something that had not previously been done in the hopes of actually securing the hearing our concerns deserved – and that our Synod desperately needs to act on.
 
I remember with clarity the comments of these fine brothers and sisters. We were all frankly overwhelmed by the task before us. Obviously, almost a year prior to the 2010 Synodical convention, we had absolutely no idea who might be elected as president of the Synod, but we understood that regardless of who was elected, the Synod needed to deal with the issues which had been ignored for at least a decade or more.
 
The first task we undertook was to clearly define those issues which have been tearing our Synod apart. We also realized that we needed to provide real, concrete proof that these concerns were actually occurring. We had to find a way to address our peers (the pastors and congregations of the Synod) with our concerns to help them to see clearly what the issues are and how they might be addressed. Finally, we had to compose our documents in such a way as to be understood by both pastors and laymen, while still being very clear about the nature and danger the errors we identified posed and continue to pose to our Synod. That kind of writing is very difficult to achieve!
 
From August 2009 to January 2010, the ACELC Steering Committee (elected by the internet group to represent them) continued meeting to formulate our basic documents: “The Definition of Confessional Lutheranism In Light of Present Day Issues,” the catalog of errors, and a series of ten “Evidence of Errors” documents designed to substantiate the existence of the errors we identified.
 
At the Symposia on the Lutheran Confessions at Fort Wayne, Indiana, in January 2010, an informal meeting of the ACELC Steering Committee, along with some trusted advisors, met and it was decided to send a fraternal letter of admonition to every congregation of our Synod as a way to address our peers with our concerns and encourage study of the errors we identified. This we decided to do following the July 2010 Synodical convention so as not to be seen as engaging in the politics which inevitably precede and surround every convention.
 
Since the time that mailing went out, we planned and carried out our first ever ACELC Free Conference and Convening Conference, which took place March 1-3, 2011, at Trinity Lutheran Church, Kearney, Missouri. There were about 120 people in attendance, representing about 38 congregations, with eight congregations forming and joining the association on the last day of the conference. Since then an additional nine congregations have joined us in our common cause to help re-establish unity in our Synod, with many congregations still contemplating membership.
 
Some have said that the ACELC is just a little group that can also be ignored. But I would respond by saying that we have already gained more notice from the Synodical administration than any previous effort in recent times.  Representatives of the ACELC Steering Committee and representatives of the Council of Presidents – including the First Vice President of the Synod – had extended discussions regarding our concerns in excess of 15 hours of face-to-face meetings. To my knowledge no other group in the Synod since the 1970’s has had that kind of opportunity. Additionally, First Vice President Herbert Mueller has repeatedly assured us that the ACELC will be included in the proposed Koinonia Project which seeks the same goals as the ACELC. We look forward to that opportunity. Additionally, our Letter of Fraternal Admonition for the LCMS has been discussed by hundreds if not thousands of pastors and laymen throughout the Synod. That is precisely what we had hoped for! Additionally, we have learned that many circuit pastors’ conferences have or plan to use the ACELC documents for their study programs during the course of the next year, and that many pastors are using our documents as study guides for their own congregations in Sunday morning Bible studies. That too is exactly what we had hoped for!
 
The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod has no need to fear or dislike the ACELC. To be sure, the first objective of our Synod says that the Synod shall: “Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith…and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism, and heresy.” And this is precisely what the ACELC desires to do in support of our Synod. We are convinced that there is no bad time to confess the truth, and that there is no bad time to address error. If that is what you also believe, then you and your congregation ought to give serious consideration to joining the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations.  Just go to our website and you will find resources to educate your congregation  toward that end and stand with us in working toward healing the wounds that have fractured our fellowship. If your congregation is not likely to join us, then you may join as an Associate Member of the ACELC to support our efforts.
 
After more than two years of my personal involvement in the ACELC, I will soon be stepping away from the leadership of the association for a time. The reason for this is that I will be taking my retirement as of September 1, 2011, and moving to an area of northern Colorado where there is not yet a congregation of the ACELC. Thus, I too will be an Associate ACELC Member until a congregation of the ACELC is available in my area. I will continue to do whatever I can to support and work for the goals of the ACELC because our Synod needs a voice of faithfulness to keep focused on those concerns which are hurting our Synodical fellowship. I pray that with me and many others you and your congregation will consider joining this most worthy effort!
 
Rev. Richard A. Bolland
Out-going Chairman, ACELC Board of Directors, Pro Tem
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