Dear Confessional Lutheran,
I have a couple of things to share with you. As the only lay member of the Board of Directors of the ACELC, I think I have a unique perspective on some recent events. Certainly, I've had a few eye-opening experiences during my two years on the board. To be perfectly honest, I'm writing this letter as a teaser. My congregation in Austin, Texas is hosting this year's ACELC conference. We've been working hard to get things ready for y'all, and we'd dearly love to show you how hospitality is done. More on that later. What follows are my loosely related, rambling thoughts:
First, I'd like to tell you how Trinity, Austin became involved with ACELC. The pastor and the board of elders have been struggling, as many of you have, with being in fellowship with congregations who are barely recognizable as Lutheran. Several different groups have formed to try to deal with these divisive issues. Our board of elders made a number of field trips to organizational meetings of such groups. We joined one, and then left it. We didn't want to leave the Missouri Synod, and all the groups seemed to want to go there. (I don't blame them a bit, but this wasn't the answer for Trinity, Austin.)
Our latest field trip was in 2011 to Kearney, Missouri for the organizational meeting of the ACELC, whose goals were not form a micro-synod and not to march into contemporary worship churches and smash their strobe lights with their electric guitars. (Although this last plan appeals to me on a deep, primeval level.) Rather, the stated goal is to confess against error. That's really just a way of saying, “Preach the Word.” And that seemed to be the sort of thing we should support, and the sort of thing we wanted to support. First, it's what Churches are supposed to be doing; second, it's something we are able to do; and third, it's what Christ has commanded us to do. If our goal is to “Preach the Word,” then we are successful each time the Word is preached. We don't have to measure our success by how many resolutions make it past a floor committee or whether an erring congregation gets disciplined. Our job is to preach the Word. We let the Holy Spirit grow the seed as He sees fit.
Again, that seemed to be something we at Trinity, Austin could get behind without reservation. Indeed, it seemed like it was something that we ought to get behind. Trinity, Austin joined the ACELC, and shortly after I was elected to the Board of Directors. Frankly, I think of myself as the “pet layman” of the group. I mostly try to keep my mouth shut at the monthly conference calls and try to be helpful when and where I can. But what I want most to convey here, is that there are few things I have enjoyed more than serving with these board members and the others with active roles in the ACELC. The many papers and documents these men produce are as devotional as they are informational. They are phenomenally hard-working and self-sacrificing. I continually feel out-classed (in a good way).
I've attended the first two ACELC conferences. To sum them up: I came for the papers and stayed for the devotion. I was most surprised by this aspect of the conferences. Theological experts presented scholarly papers. But those papers, grounded in the pure Gospel, were as inspirational as any sermon. The sessions did not become endurance contests, listening to one dry, technical speech after another. Just the opposite. One was disappointed that it was already supper time.
So let me smoothly segue into my second rambling: This year's conference in Austin. The topic this year is “Christ for us: The Divine Service,” one of the hot-button issues in LCMS. One of the first things I'd like to do is personally to thank the Rev. David Langewisch, of Lakewood, Colorado, who is walking, eyes-wide-open into what he must see as enemy territory, to defend contemporary worship.
As a university professor, I have a deep appreciation for academic honesty, and the fact that ACELC is open and honest enough to give a fair hearing, without reservation, to opposing viewpoints and the fact that a representative from the opposing viewpoint is willing to come gives me great intellectual joy. This is going to be soooooo interesting.... I feel like a kid 3 days before Christmas. That's one teaser.
The other teaser is that the CTCR has responded to some of the Dissents submitted by the ACELC. The board is not exactly “sitting” on the responses, but we'd like to wait until the conference to make them “fully public.” It seems to me like this will be a key conference, and I don't want anyone to be kicking themselves in May because they could have attended if only they'd known how cool it was going to be.
If that's not enough to get you down to Texas in April, then let me remind you that we have the best BBQ, the best TexMex, a plethora of brewpubs, and the temps should be in the 80's. Information on the conference is here, and here. There are scholarships for Texas pastors meeting certain criteria. There is also a small amount of scholarship money left over from gifts last year. If you would like to attend, but can't because of financial hardship, we might be able to help.
Cordially and In Christ,
Trinity, Austin and ACELC Board